Refugee activists have condemned Serco and the Immigration department’s ban on visits to Darwin’s detention centres over the Easter weekend.

Even before protests were scheduled to start, Serco and the Immigration department banned visits to the detention centres.

Although visits to Darwin’s newest detention centre, Wickham Point, had been approved and confirmed for Thursday evening, a DIAC officer,at the gate, stopped visitors who had come from Sydney and Melbourne, to tell them that all visits had been cancelled for “operational reasons”.

No protest had been planned for Wickham Point until Sunday, but it seems that visiting at all Darwin’s detention centres have been banned until Tuesday.

“This is a ridiculous lock-out that has the potential to blow up in Serco’s face,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the refugee activists’ convergence on Darwin. “Last year a similar ban on activists’ visits resulted in a mass hunger strike by asylum seekers at Curtin detention centre.

“The ban is typical of Serco’s arbitrary and unaccountable management of detention centres. Detainees, aware of the interstate Easter visits for weeks, have been shamefully left waiting for visits that won’t happen. The lock-out will also apply to local people that have been regularly visiting asylum seekers.

“The visiting ban makes a mockery of the “people our business’ slogan and the supposed ‘detention values’ of the Immigration department,” said Ian Rintoul, “Darwin has become the detention capital of Australia. Twenty years after the introduction of mandatory detention, there are still thousands of asylum seekers and hundreds of children in detention.”

The weekend of protest will begin with a rally and march through the centre of Darwin, starting at noon at Parliament House and marching via DIAC offices to a bar-b-q at Christ Church Cathedral. This will be followed by a protest on Saturday at the Northern Immigration Detention Centre at 10.00am and then a ‘family-friendly’ protest in the afternoon, at the Darwin Airport Lodge which is holding over 350 children and families. The NIDC also hold Indonesian fishermen and crew of asylum boats.

On Sunday, a protest will be held at Wickham Point, which holds around 800 asylum seekers and which will soon be expanded even further.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul mob 0417 275 713.

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