Join the Refugee Rights Action Network WA on the 21st of June to Yongah Hill Detention Centre. RRAN will be organising buses from East Perth Terminal at 2pm to travel to the detention centre. Come along to see one of the most high security institutions that Australia is using to detain asylum seekers. We will be sharing the stories of refugees detained inside Yongah Hill Detention Centre and from long term refugee rights activists.
This event will end with a candlelight vigil, which is being organised in partnership with Amnesty International’s Western Australian branch. See http://www.amnesty.org.au/wa/event/34690/ for more information.
Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre, corner of Great Eastern Highway and Mitchell Avenue, Northam. Buses leave at 2pm from the East Perth Terminal, off West Parade, East Perth (just over the footbridge from the East Perth Train Station); they will depart Northam at 7.30pm.
You can book a seat on the bus over at http://www.trybooking.com/Booking/BookingEventSummary.aspx?eid=88519; even if you’re intending, please register so we have an idea of how many people might be there. That said, seats will also be available on the day, and if cost is a problem, please get in touch as we’d rather have you there than not.
“Yesterday I went into the sea with my friend, we tried to die or go anywhere to leave this fucking island. LML 043 and I am FRG 010. I was really sad, I was planning to hang myself but my friend saw me and he said do you want to run into the water? Then the locals might kill us. But an Australian guard found us first. We were planning to go out, neither of us can swim. We tried to die. We want death, better than PNG. I don’t believe in anything anymore. We were shouting freedom as we ran in the water. When they found us, they said you’re in trouble. And we said okay kill us, we want to die.
They are criminals, please stop them. We are going to die.”
(Boat ID numbers have been changed to protect identities)
1pm April 13
St George’s Cathedral
38 St George’s Terrace, Perth City
Join the RRAN contingent
For info: Ph 0417 904 329 or visit: facebook.com/rran.org
Attend on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/229035927300133
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This video by Rez Nez is a powerful presentation of the issues surrounding the murder of a refugee on Manus Island. It includes footage from the candlelight vigil on February 23 and other refugee rights activism in Perth.
I visited a friend in Curtin detention centre in December of 2013. I flew into Broome from Perth and rented a car. I drove that car halfway from Broome to Derby and camped overnight in what was insufferable heat in the middle of the bush. I drove an hour through the gateway into the Kimberley until I reached Curtin Detention Centre – one of the most remote and inaccessible detention centres in Australia.
I visited a man there who emanated an air of gentility and humility that still resonates within me so many months afterwards. He had been brutally tortured in Sri Lanka several times before finally fleeing. He sought asylum in Australia coming here by boat. He arrived in September 2012 and was then sent to Nauru Detention Centre where he witnessed rioting, abuse, self-harm and suicide. He was then transferred to Curtin Detention Centre where he was left to wait for months, and months, and months.
What is the point of this story? I got a phone call last week to say that after 16 months in detention, after surviving torture at the hands of a brutal regime in Sri Lanka, incarceration in Australia and abuse on Nauru, he would be getting released from detention next week.
When I told him that I had received the call we had both been waiting for, he was so happy. Even after 16 months in detention and everything that he had been through, he told me that his dreams and his future were coming “so soon.”
When he was in detention, I asked him if he’d like to study something when he got out. And he said, “Yes, I want to become a magician. Is there a university for magicians in Perth?” He wanted to make children laugh. That is the type of person he is. I could now be at peace, knowing that if he still wished to do so, he was free to pursue his dream of becoming a magician.
Through all of the horror stories I have heard about people’s particular stories – news of his release struck a particular chord within me and I realized it was because I have a profound faith and belief that people can overcome their suffering.
That no matter how dark the night, the sun can rise again upon a new day – with each one, suffering growing further and further away on the horizon.
That no matter what this man had been through or how long he had been subjected to arbitrary detention without charge or trial that he would get out one day and he could overcome his suffering.
He could rebuild his life, to take what had been awful and wrought with hardship and tribulations. We could say, from now on, your life will be great. That whatever has happened to you before – you are safe – you have gotten through it and we will transform that suffering into happiness.
The most profound thing that Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott have taken from us, and from Reza Berati this week – was not only his life – but the opportunity to overcome his suffering.
The sun would not rise upon a new day for Reza Berati, he would be forever immersed in darkness. He would be brutally denied any chance of overcoming what had been a life of suffering.
We had taken our place beside Reza’s oppressors and indeed in this instance, we had exceeded their cruelty.
The asylum seekers on Manus Island were brutally beaten. They tried to lock themselves in rooms, but they were pulled out and beaten. They tried to hide under their beds, but they were pulled out and beaten. They tried to hide in cupboards, but they were pulled out and beaten.
We created a nightmare. A living nightmare reminiscent only of the nightmarish regimes they were fleeing from. One they thought had been left behind at the beginning of their journey.
Reza Berati’s loved ones would not ever receive a phone call to say that he was going to be released the following week.
Reza Berati will never be hugged by his mother again or be able to tell her that he loved her.
Reza Berati will never passionately fall in love with someone and spend the rest of his days with them.
Reza Berati’s father did not know that when they last said goodbye, it would be the last time they saw each other. He would not have the opportunity to say ever again, “Reza, I love you.”
Reza Berati would have no end to his suffering except in death – and I do not accept that as any acceptable end at all.
Reza Berati, who was born stateless, would die stateless.
The last home he would know would be a desolate Australian prison camp on a foreign island where he was caged by fences and monitored by guards. Where he was led to believe that he was in a country that did not want him.
His last human contact – instead of being in the arms or the embrace of a friend, a family member, or a lover – was the sole of the boot of a guard who stomped his skull until he died.
Upon hearing how Reza Berati died, I was haunted every time I closed my eyes by images of the faces of the men I visit seeing them as the heads beneath that boot.
The manner in which Reza Berati died perfectly depicted and symbolised a culmination of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers for the past 14 years.
From the soil his blood was spilt on will grow a legacy, a legacy of the politicians of Australia’s callous cruelty, their disgusting disdain for human life and Australia’s silence in the face of people being brutally attacked, physically, emotionally, mentally and ideologically.
That legacy will grow from blood. But I ask you here tonight to start with me a new legacy. A legacy to be grown out of the synchronised passion of those who feel sickened by injustice and cruelty. And let that passion become the new rhetoric around asylum seekers.
On Friday night I echoed a sentiment to a crowd of 300 people equally distraught by the news of Reza’s death, and it is a sentiment I will echo again to you tonight.
To you Reza Berati, I say that I will not give you my sympathy. I don’t think you would want my sympathy. And I do not think that sympathy would have saved you, nor does it do you justice. I will not treat you nor speak of you as if you were some poor defenseless refugee. For you are not that nor were you ever.
You are a man that struggled for freedom and for survival. And you died in the middle of fighting for that freedom. Not incidentally, but because you were embroiled in a systematic institution of oppression that has killed six people before you. These people instead of being stomped to death by guards, were murdered by a government that imprisoned them for so long that they took their own lives.
I will instead of sympathy give you something else. I will give you a promise.
I promise you that instead of offering you sympathy I will fight for freedom just as you fought for your freedom.
I promise you that as many times as it takes I will tell people over and over again until it resonates to the steps of parliament that is not illegal to seek asylum.
I promise you that I will fight until every barbed wire adorned fence that caged you until your last moments of life, are torn apart. And that every junction of these fences that are forged by party politics, racism and xenophobia are ripped clean from their soldering.
I promise you that I will fight until every asylum seeker is called by their name and not by a number.
And I promise to fight for you until every asylum seeker can see the sunrise and the sunset without seeing them through a prison fence silhouette.
I ask all of you here today to join with me. Do not offer the sympathy that lays placid and immobile at the foot of the fences. Join with me and promise every asylum seeker currently in immigration detention that you will fight for their freedom, to end this awful system and to bring justice to Reza Berati. Free the refugees.
Refugee Rights Action Network
[The following account has been put together and released late on February 18, 2014 from multiple sources that various Refugee Rights Action Network activists have complied after collating a multitude of communications our activists have received over the last few days directly from asylum seekers and staff based on the island. This contests many of the claims by the Australian government.]
Asylum seekers have been staging peaceful protests at least twice daily for over two weeks at the centre. Protests turned violent starting on Sunday the 16th of February. The asylum seekers had a meeting at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with Australian Immigration, PNG Government, The Salvation Army & G4S staff.
Several asylum seekers have reported that a pack of dogs were used as security during the meeting. Although it is not uncommon to use dogs as security in the Pacific, they have especially strong connotations of control and hostility for people from the Middle East.
The meeting was meant to answer questions about their visa processing, and questions raised at a previous meeting on the 5th of February. Asylum seekers had demanded a substantive response to their questions.
There was significant ambiguity in answering questions and strong implications that processing hadn’t started, nor any clear answers about resettlement.
Some asylum seekers have reported they were told they would not be resettled in Papua New Guinea. Others have said they were told they may be resettled in PNG, but it would certainly not happen in the foreseeable future.
The asylum seekers revealed that they discussed the results of the meeting within their respective communities in the internment camp & decided to start a peaceful protest at around 6pm that night. As near as can be determined, all the different ethnic groups were in agreement on a protest that evening.
The PNG locals – both staff working in the center and people living in the vicinity of the camp – started to throw stones over the fence into Mike, Foxtrot and Oscar compounds.
Some of the asylum seekers in Oscar compound escaped through a hole in the fence between Oscar and Mike compounds and went into the jungle. 8 of them were arrested and beaten by the local people before being taken to IHMS (the medical service providers). Two asylum seekers were transferred to Lorengau hospital later in the night.
The guys in Foxtrot compound broke the fences between Foxtrot and Mike compounds and moved into Mike compound.
Following this, the “PNG Special Forces” became involved and the asylum seekers from Foxtrot compound in Mike were forced back into Foxtrot and everything was calm again until 8pm.
At 8pm, the local PNG G4S and other locals attacked Oscar and Mike compounds. They entered Oscar compound and started beating asylum seekers with what has been described as by the asylum seekers as ‘’swords and bats,” which other sources have called “hunting knives.” Around 15 people were wounded at this time. They received wounds in the forms of cuts to their neck, shoulders, thighs, back and head. They were taken to IHMS for treatment of their wounds.
The locals couldn’t enter Mike compound, so they started throwing stones at asylum seekers from 3 sides of the fence. At least 4 people were hit on their head, shoulders and feet by stones. It was reported to RRAN that these locals even managed to hit and injure an Australian G4S officer with a stone thrown over the fence. The asylum seekers had no stones inside the centre to retaliate with. They were stuck inside the compound whilst being attacked.
It was reported by staff in the centre and asylum seekers that the guards had been inside the compounds over the previous week and had cleared out all the stones and all objects that could be used as projectiles.
RRAN also heard reports that staff had moved beds into a central location prior to the conflict, which is where asylum seekers were later treated.
The guys in Foxtrot compound again wanted to go to Mike compound to assist those injured in that compound, but special forces interfered and forced them back.
In Mike compound, the locals and PNG G4S staff weren’t allowed back into the centre or the compounds. The asylum seekers began to clean the compounds and reported that they “were even running the internet and phones.”
The asylum seekers report that staff placed ‘’containers’’ or ‘’iron boxes’’ at the gates “so no one can escape.’’
The following day, Monday the 17th, it was again reported that there were no staff inside the centre. It appears as though all Australian staff were evacuated to a ‘safe” area (Australian Navy vessels). The asylum seekers left to fend for themselves. This is a similar scenario to that reported in October when the local Police Special Forces Unit (locally known as the “mobile squad” or “death squad”) and PNG military personnel stationed on the island engaged in a pitched battle outside the perimeter fence of the internment camp with rifles, semi-automatic guns, swords, hunting knives and rocks.
The locals are reported as ‘’breaching’’ the fence in Mike compound and the asylum seekers all ran into Foxtrot compound. The locals turned off the power and raided the compounds attacking all clients.
They pulled them out of bed and pulled them from under beds. They found people hiding in cupboards. The asylum seekers in Foxtrot compound were hiding under the containers and were then dragged out and beaten.
3 people were shot but are still alive. Australian workers on the island report that people had serious injuries such as broken legs, arms, stab wounds and wounds to the head from rocks. Advocates heard gunshots ringing in the background of phone calls with asylum seekers on Monday.
Asylum seekers reported that the local used white weapons and bush knives. Unconfirmed reports stated that at this time G4S guards were holding two Iranian asylum seekers in a headlock position whilst simultaneously holding knives. At some point, the asylum seekers started “bleeding profusely” from the neck. There has been no suggestion that G4S intentionally wounded the asylum seekers, although that was certainly the result.
One supervisor tried to help the asylum seekers escape the locals by allowing them to re-enter the compound through a side gate. He then became subjected to the attack by having stones thrown at him. The people inside Oscar tried to defend him by throwing stones back at the locals, but were also surging the gate to escape together. Police then intervened.
One asylum seeker is dead from a head wound after being struck by a rock.
The asylum seeker killed on Monday night in the Manus Island detention centre was a 24 year-old Faili Kurd. He was one of the first people sent to Manus Island by the Rudd Labor government in August 2013.
The man was also a resident of the Mike Compound in the detention centre that has been at the centre of the detainees’ accounts of the events on Monday night.
“This is not a ‘tragic incident’ as Minister Morrison has described it. It is a murder probably perpetrated by PNG police that Australia has contracted to provide security on the perimeter of the detention centre,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“It is also likely that the man was killed in the grounds of the Manus base, hardly a place where asylum seekers ‘place themselves at great risk’ as Minister Morrison has described, unless it is the contracted PNG police that are the danger.
“We are appealing to the government to ensure that there is a full coronial enquiry into the man’s death and that proper arrangements are made with the man’s family.”
“Minister Morrison has also been very selective with the information about the serious injuries inflicted on the asylum seekers by PNG police and local employees of the G4S,” added Ian Rintoul.
“It is passing strange that Minister Morrison neglected to mention that among the injured evacuated from Manus Island was an Iranian man was flown to Port Moresby private hospital after having his throat slit at the detention centre on Monday night.
“Without a full and transparent inquiry into the events of Monday night, no-one can have confidence in the account being presented by the government.
“It is quite clear that the Australian government cannot guarantee the safety of people in detention on Manus Island. There must be an immediate moratorium on any transfers of asylum to Manus Island and arrangements made to bring the asylum seekers to Australia.“
For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713
RRAN MeetingsRRAN WA is currently meeting on Mondays from 6.30pm at the Activist Centre, U15/5 Aberdeen Street, Perth (just north of the McIver Train Station). For more details, send us a message via our Contact RRAN WA page, or call/text us on 0417 904 329. Fremantle RRAN meets at 6pm on the first and third Wednesday of each month at The Federal Hotel, 23 William St Fremantle. Contact Fremantle RRAN