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April 1, 2011

Protests at Villawood and Curtin over Easter

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

Around 250 refugee supporters rallied outside Villawood detention centre on Easter Monday April 25, to support asylum seekers staging a rooftop protest inside the centre, pictured above.

Over Easter activists in Perth also took a two-day bus trip to the Curtin detention centre, where 60 refugee supporters staged a solidarity protest with at least 300 hunger striking asylum seekers inside when Serco set out to obstruct visits to the asylum seekers. See full reports as well as photos and video by clicking on “Read more” below.

Villawood protest

Channel 10 news report on the protest

Iraqi refugee Ali Muttari, recently out of detention, addresses the rally

Video of Hadi, brother of one of the rooftop protesters, speaking at the rally

Majid, one of the rooftop protesters, speaks to the rally over the phone

See photos of the rally from Inner West courier, Flickr

Convergence on Curtin detention centre

Video of some of the 16 refugee supporters being arrested outside the detention centre, protesting in solidarity with asylum seekers inside against the ridiculous visiting conditions that were imposed

More video and media reports, including Sky news report, available at
See photos of the convergence on Indymedia, set 1,  set 2set 3set 4 and set 5
and photos by Alex Bainbridge

Press releases:
Refugee protest spreads to Curtin (Sunday April 24),
Curtin hunger strike and protest continues ( Tues April 26),
Hunger strike ends but mandatory detention ‘slowly kills’ (Weds April 27)

Report by Sydney participant on the trip

When we arrived everyone at Curtin already knew the Convergence bus from Perth was coming. This included SERCO who decided the bus required ‘special  arrangements’ for visits, i.e. isolated, one on one visits (with no  translators), in a watched closed off room, in a special area (they  call it ‘the sandpit’) still under construction and used by DIAC for their refugee claim assessment interviews. It’s a long way – and at least four fences – from  the compound.

Asylum seekers inside Curtin detention centre got a petition with over 700 signatures signed in two days, demanding their rights to a social collective visit from the  Curtin convergence bus in the centre (which is normally what happens when people visit).  They gave this to SERCO two days before anyone arrived. SERCO wouldn’t  let it happen. They were shit scared of people eating almonds and  apricots together.

When SERCO refused this there were very quickly a  couple of hundred, then 500, and then more, asylum seekers protesting  inside. They sat under a tree near the entrance. They had huge banners  and were chanting through the night. There have been up to 2-300 guys  on hunger strike and they boycotted all one on one (under surveillance) visits, demanding SERCO let everyone come into the camp and meet with them and see the situation on the inside. SERCO again refused.

On the outside we boycotted visiting in support. We did a roadblock at the security fence outside the centre. Seventeen of us were arrested and given move on orders (24  hour bans from going to the area). On the next day, Monday, Easter eggs and letters for the guys inside were delivered. And again demands for visits. SERCO were bastards. There were still no visits. The convergence crew pushed down the fence.

They tried to stop us talking and communicating and showing solidarity with those inside. They failed miserably. Phone calls and emails were sent back and forth furiously to update each other as to what was  happening in the centre and what was happening at the fence. (And this despite the bad mobile and phone coverage and the measly 19 computers with slow slow access for all 1400 men in Curtin.)

The guys inside continue to peacefully protest – hundreds sit under the tree, many are still on hunger strike – a hunger strike that SERCO  can no longer deny as many have now collapsed.

It started as a demand for visits. It continues because they were and they are demanding freedom.

April 26, 2011

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