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October 23, 2011

TWO YEARS IN DETENTION: BURMESE REFUGEE STARTS DARWIN ROOF TOP PROTEST

by refugeeactioncoalitionsydney

A Burmese refugee in detention two weeks short of two years began a roof top protest at the Darwin detention centre Sunday night, 23 October.

The 33 year-old Rohingyan man has been found to be a refugee but has now been waiting for two years for ASIO to complete his security check. He has knocked the electric fence on the roof between north 1 and north 2 compounds and is under close surveillance by Serco guards.

The man told other asylum seekers that he could not take it any longer. He has a wife and two sons in Malaysia. His whole family has only recently been released after being jailed for nine months on immigration violations.

“The man should be immediately released. Last week ASIO revealed to a Senate estimates hearing that it does not require refugees to be in detention while security checks are completed,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“There are at least two other Rohingyan refugees in Darwin in the same situation and hundreds in detention centres across Australia. They all should be released.

“The Darwin protester is a recognized refugee, yet he has been deprived of his liberty for two years. By depriving him of any possibility of earning a living, the government has also inflicted two years of misery and deprivation on his family. The anxiety caused is a form of mental torture.

“We are also calling for Serco to act with restraint with respect to the roof top protest. In several incidents recently, Darwin roof top protesters have been beaten when they have come down from the roof. It has also been revealed that Serco has indulged in the dangerous practice of refusing water to roof top protesters as a means of forcing them end their protest.

“The Darwin detention centre should be the subject of an open inquiry. The whole centre is a tinder-box running on damage control, as the detainee’s despair increases day by day. Its high security North 3 compound where protesters or others deemed to be trouble-makers are often imprisoned is also developing a reputation for the mistreatment of asylum seekers.

“Minister Bowen recently announced that the community should expect an increased use of bridging visas and community detention to release asylum seekers. This man has been recognized as a man to whom Australia owes protection – there are no excuses for the Minister not to release him.”

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