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Fixing Australia

Australia is broken. Democracy has holes in it, cracks in it, and it needs fixing. Since the 2004 Federal election we know that our government is not going to fix it. I think we need to do that fixing, and this blog is a start of getting some ideas together.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Baxter: eleven days on a tin roof, Orwellian lawyers in the Courts

The Gates of Baxter HellNarrogin WA, 16 Dec 13:30pm - Day 11 for the first man on the roof of the Baxter gymnasium, and temperatures at Port Augusta are soaring towards the Centigrade mark: as I look at the temperature at local time in SA of 16:00pm,'s gauge stands at 35 C. The Department of Immigration has gone silent; Your Right To Know does not play a role. No news or updates have come in directly for a while, but in the Adelaide Court Claire O'Connor's efforts to get one of the men out of Baxter are being derailed by the lawyer for the Immigration Minister by using the 'spinline' of things being too busy at Baxter for the DIMIA psychologist as a result of the hunger strike, to have the time to look at the situation of her client .... who's on the hunger strike. An Orwellian assessment, we can safely conclude.

I'm also touching on the issue of placing identifying details of the Iranians on the internet, while refugee supporters, advocates and activists alike mobilize for protests, vigils, hunger strikes around the country in solidarity with the Iranians.

Identifying details of Iranians

From Project SafeCom Inc.
16 December 2004

Anybody who's unsure about posting on not posting identifiable details of the Iranians, or photographs of the Baxter men on any internet list or website should read the article below from the Svenska Dagbladet.

Over the last few weeks I've made several phone calls to Australian as well as international newspapers and website owners, asking them to take names or photos of Iranians off their website - in all cases my pleas were honoured and editors changed the text of the online news articles. The same applies to emails sent to any list, whether that's a "Mailman" list, a Yahoo!Groups list or a Topica list, because all of them have archives on the internet.

Placing identifiable photos of Iranians on the internet places them in immediate and terrible danger, because there is evidence that the Iranian religious council has "refugee spies" working around the planet. Their brief is to identify and list refugees as well as photograph them. Their activities do not limit themselves to just "run-aways" who have fled to other countries but also to accepted refugees with permanent residency in other countries. No other article illustrates this better than the article pasted below, from Svenska Dagbladet.

Some of the Iranians in Baxter may have told you that they actually want to have details or photos of themselves on the internet. Well, that's not the single criterion, but there are also considerations at play, that they do either not know about, or no longer want to know about. The final judgment is up to people who know the set of circumstances also from the outside of the "fence".

It's a bit like addressing the question, what you would do if someone, your best friend, stands on the edge of a bridge, ready to jump into the traffic and on to the concrete road, 50 metres below.

Is friendship determined by giving your friend a push, if you're asked, or is friendship determined by applying your "knowing better" as a friend and bystander?

A message from one of the Christian Ministers that attended the church service today: "If you have received a document with names of detainees included do not under any circumstances send this information to anyone. Some detainees are horrified that their names are included. They did not give permission for this info to be circulated. Please destroy or delete this information it will be very damaging for this information to be made public."

Also: Release of this information runs counter to the entire approach and strategies of the Unitng Church who are on the record as being very successful in lobbying the Minister on behalf of the Iranians.

Suspected refugee-spies worked for Iran

(Misstänkta flyktingspioner jobbade åt Iran)

Svenska Dagbladet

(translated from Swedish)

Both suspected refugee-spies who were expelled a week ago came from Iran. The men where seized in Kista after having contacted refugees from the Baluchistan province. The refugees were photographed by the spies and Säpo [Swedish secret service] were made aware of the men after a tip-off from exiled Iranians.

Säpo & Chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand of the Stockholm's International Prosecution Chamber has been very reluctant about details surrounding the suspected refugee espionage last week.

Two men, about 35-40 years old, where seized suspected of having spied on refugees. The preliminary investigation was closed but the men were expelled after a decision by Margareta Linderoth, head of Counter-Terrorism for Säpo.

Still, both the Prosecution authorities and Säpo refuse to say where the men come from. The only information given is that they come from a non-European country.

Why won't you say that they are Iranian?

"I can answer the question generally speaking, it's not up to me, the prosecutor, to point out separate countries at this point, in particular since the preliminary investigation has been closed." -Tomas Lindstrand.

Why's that?

"That is how I interpret the secrecy law. It deals with Sweden's relationship towards a foreign power. I don't think it's suitable. One shouldn't hastily point the finger at other countries without proper grounds", he continued.

But according to information to Svenska Dagbladet from many independent sources, both men are Iranian. The men have visited Sweden earlier. Last year they made contact with exiled Iranians with left-wing sympathies. Both men returned to Sweden this year in October where they made contact with refugees both here and in Norway, and according to certain information, also in Denmark.

The purpose for the Iranians' operation in Sweden in October and November was to establish contact and to recruit sources amongst the Iranian refugees. More specifically, on his occasion they contacted Iranians from the Baluchistan province, according to anonymous source information.

The men operated under different names with their contacts and met refugees in many locations. A group of Iranians became frightened. In Sweden are there an estimated thousand people with Baluchistanian background and in Norway, roughly 60-70 families.

That the preliminary investigation against the Iranians was dropped was because it wasn't possible to prove that they'd been acting "secretly" & "with deceiving methods", as the old illegal intelligence operations law demands.

"This law is not particularly well suited to deal with refugee-espionage", says Tomas Lindstrand.

Many exiled Iranians are critical of the Swedish authorities for not saying directly that Iran lies behind the operation.

"We are disapointed. This creates an anxiety among Iranians and distrust of Säpo increases", said Mehrdad Darvishpour, Doctor of Sociology at Stockholm University.

The men were seized in Kista after a tip-off from exiled Iranians who had themselves been contacted.

"We want to have an official and public protest from Sweden against Iran sending agents here. If Iran sees that nothing happens they will continue with their work", said Mehrdad Darvishpour. "Enough is enough".

Suicidal hunger striker needs psychiatric help, says lawyer

The Advertiser

AN Iranian man on a hunger strike at a South Australian detention centre was mentally ill and needed to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital, his lawyer said yesterday.

Abdoul Hamidi, 31, who has been taking part in a hunger strike at the Baxter detention centre, near Port Augusta, for the past nine days, had a history of self-harm and suicide attempts, lawyer Claire O'Connor said.

The Federal Court in Adelaide will decide today on an application by Ms O'Connor to have the court make an order Mr Hamidi be assessed to determine if he should be moved out of detention and into hospital.

"He has cut his stomach so many times with razor blades that his stomach is just ribbons of scar tissue," Ms O'Connor said.

"He's swallowed shampoo, panadeine, tried to hang himself, cut his neck."

Ms O'Connor said she obtained the information about Mr Hamidi's suicide attempts from immigration department records under a freedom of information application.

She said a psychologist had visited Mr Hamidi six weeks ago and recommended he be assessed to determine if he should be out of detention, but the immigration department had not followed the recommendation.

Refugee advocates said yesterday 27 Iranian detainees at Baxter were involved in the hunger strike, including three men who remained on the roof of the centre's gymnasium.

Link to The Advertiser

Protest delays detainee court bid
December 16, 2004

A HUNGER-striking Iranian man seeking a court order for an urgent psychological assessment had his case delayed today, partly as a result of the protest he is involved with at a South Australian detention centre.

Lawyer Claire O'Connor says Abdoul Hamidi, 31, is mentally ill and urgently needs to be transferred out of the Baxter detention centre, in north SA, to a psychiatric hospital.

Ms O'Connor said Mr Hamidi, who has been taking part in a hunger strike at Baxter for the past 10 days, had a history of self-harm and suicide attempts, including cutting his stomach and neck, attempting to hang himself and swallowing shampoo and panadeine.

The Federal Court in Adelaide was today due to hear Mr Hamidi's application asking the court to order that he be psychologically assessed, with a view to transferring him out of Baxter.

But a lawyer for Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, who is opposing the application, asked for an adjournment.

She said an affidavit from the detention centre's psychologist was not ready because he was busy dealing with the protest at Baxter.

"There's a focus at Baxter on some detainees, including some on the roof, which is taxing the staff there," she told the court.

There were 27 Iranian detainees involved in a hunger strike at the facility, including three men who remained on the roof of the centre's gymnasium as part of their protest against their detention.

Justice Bruce Lander adjourned the hearing until tomorrow.


Link to The AAP/News Interactive article

The Kafkaesque Catch 22

Friday, December 17, 2004
Andrew Bartlett's BLOG

If you haven't read any books by Franz Kafka, I recommend you do - especially The Trial. Nothing I've read better portrays the bizarre, surreal, nightmarish torment refugees in detention have been subjected to by our Government - perhaps embellished with a dose of Catch 22 just to round off the horror.

I saw a news report yesterday which gives a glimpse of this - its so sick and shameless it's almost funny in a very black way.

A hunger-striking Iranian man in Baxter is seeking a court order to get an urgent psychological assessment. The court was told he is severely mentally ill and urgently needs to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital. He has a history of self-harm and suicide attempts.

The Govt lawyer tried to delay the hearing, saying evidence from the detention centre's psychologist was not ready because he was busy dealing with the protest at Baxter. To quote - "There's a focus at Baxter on some detainees, including some on the roof, which is taxing the staff there."

• Yes that's right, the psychologist couldn't do an assessment of the health of the hunger striker because he was too busy dealing with the hunger strikers.

• Yes it's true, people who are deliberately driven insane by the detention regime of this Govt have to go to court to try to get access to proper psychiatric care.

• Yes it's true, the Govt fights these court actions to try to stop the detainees from getting 'out' to a psych hospital.

• And yes, the Govt was successful in getting the Court to adjourn the matter to give them more time to provide to the Court with their mental health assessment of the hunger striker.

See Andrew Bartlett's BLOG

JRSA supports call for independent medical review of Baxter crisis

Media Release
Justice for Asylum Seekers, Adelaide
15 December 2004

As the rooftop protest at Baxter detention enters the eleventh day, JRSA is increasingly concerned for the health and well being of the three Iranians on the roof and supports the call from the Alliance of Health Professionals for asylum seekers for an independent medical review, said Dr Don McMaster.

The Alliance of Health Professionals for Asylum Seekers has convened an independent medical team including psychiatrists and general practitioners to review the condition of hunger-strikers in Baxter detention centre. Dr Louise Newman, Convenor of the Alliance said that "this latest outbreak of despair and self-harm is entirely predictable. Long-term detention damages psychological health and the prospect of indefinite detention, results in hopelessness and mental deterioration.

The Alliance described Baxter as "a de facto psychiatric hospital, without adequate treatment or monitoring." "The fact that some individuals have exhausted avenues of legal appeal is no justification for inhumane treatment and sub-standard medical care, said Dr Newman. "All people, regardless of visa status, have a right to adequate health care".

JRSA supports the Alliance medical team in seeking approval to conduct a review of Baxter detainees and to recommend treatment as required.The situation at Baxter has to be resolved soon before a major catastrophe occurs.

Images of the detainees on the rooftop are available from REUTERS

Prayer Vigils at Pilgrim Uniting Church

Daily prayer vigils are being held at the Pilgrim Uniting Church, 12 Flinders Street Adelaide. The vigils are for the Baxter detainees who are resorting to the desperate measures such as hunger striking. The prayer vigils are being held weekdays 1-2pm and 5-6pm, on Saturdays from 10am to 12 noon.

Angela Dawes
Justice for Asylum Seekers
Phone (08) 8266-4111

Hunger strikers bake on tin roof while Minister ignores their pleas

Senator Kerry Nettle
Senator for NSW (The Greens)
Press Release 16.12.04

Greens Senator Kerry Nettle today called on Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone to agree to review the asylum claims of the Iranian detainees including the 25 currently on hunger strike in Baxter Detention Centre. "Amanda Vanstone must act now to save these men and all their compatriots from the deadly situation that their long and harsh incarceration has left them in," Senator Nettle said.

"This situation is now life or death. The Minister must act now to ensure there is no tragic death as a result of her intransigence.

"The three desperate men on a tin roof at Baxter are in particular danger. Temperatures are soaring into the high 30s and set to reach over 40 degrees by the weekend, and these men are getting weaker by the day.

"The fact is that these asylum seekers have been driven into dangerous desperation by their long harsh detention and the threat of the deportation to face persecution in Iran.

"These men need urgent independent psychiatric assessments and must have their cases reviewed by the department in light of the deteriorating political situation in Iran, their own deteriorating mental condition.

"When innocent men are willing to die in these detention camps in an effort to get justice then it should be obvious to all that the mandatory detention regime is cruel and inhume policy which must be abolished."

The Greens will be joining protests and vigils around the country on Friday and Saturday in solidarity with the hunger strikers calling for the release of asylum seekers from the government's prisons.

Contact Jon Edwards - [phone inserted]

Baxter detainees' 5th Christmas in detention

RAR Media Release
14th December 2004

Of the 200 asylum seekers in the Baxter detention centre most will this year be 'celebrating' their fourth or fifth Christmas in detention.

To highlight their plight members of Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) will hold a number of Christmas vigils in rural and regional towns. There are now 90 RAR groups in towns across Australia.

The largest group of asylum seekers in Baxter are Iranians who fled persecution in Iran to come to seek asylum in Australia. Many have converted to Christianity, a crime punishable by death in Iran.

25 Iranian asylum seekers have recently begun a hunger strike to try to raise public awareness of their years in detention, and the dangers they face if deported to Iran.

"People who are mentally healthy and in control of their lives do not self-harm or go on hunger strikes," said RAR spokeswoman Emma Corcoran. "These are the actions of powerless and despairing people. They are so desperate to have a normal life. All they want is freedom, but they have all spent 4 or 5 years in detention.

"The government could stop the terrible suffering of these people, and save the Australian people millions of dollars, by giving these asylum seekers freedom," Ms Corcoran said. "These people are now our friends, and all we want for them is a fair go."

Rural Australians for Refugees is the largest grassroots refugee support groups, with approximately 15,000 supporters nationwide.

Contact: Emma Corcoran [phone inserted]
Anne Coombs [phone inserted]

A Draft letter to Kofi Annan

from Ian Rintoul
Refugee Action Coalition
16 December 2004

Some people have asked about a text for a letter to Kofi Annan. I have drafted the following text that people might like to use for letters that can be signed on stalls over the next few days.


To: Kofi Annan email: sg(at)
   (replace (at) with @
United Nations Headquarters,
First Avenue 46th Street,
New York, NY 10017


Urgent Action needed to assist asylum seekers in Australia refuge emergency at Baxter detention centre

Dear Secretary-General,

We are writing to draw your urgent attention to the circumstances of asylum seekers in Baxter detention centre in South Australia and other immigration detention centres in Australia.

A number of Iranian detainees are presently on hunger strike in protest at the conditions at Baxter detention Centre.. The Australian government policy of mandatory and unreviewable detention violates important principles of the Refugee Convention, 1951, to which Australia is a signatory. Many have been held in detention for three and longer with no hope of a solution - a situation which has drastic consequences for the physical and mental well-being of these asylum seekers and their families.

We appeal to you and other departments of the United Nations to draw international attention to the plight of asylum seekers in Australia and to urge the Australian government to constructively intervene to find a compassionate solution to this humanitarian crisis.



This weekend's actions

Conform with the wishes of the Iranians in the Baxter detention centre, the following schedule is valid for all of Australia: they made the "timetable":

Dear Respected Australian Nation & Human Rights Defenders

A loge with greeting Christmas, we wish a prosperous new year for all of you, we: refugees are going to Christmas and new year in bad situation, many of our friends are in hunger struck for long time, other are living On the roof in such a rainy and stormy weather, others who did not find Listening ear have stitched their mouth. So many years we have been forgotten and detained in stressful and disappointed detention centers, so we requested you to take us seriously and reflex our situation to international organization.

1. - A protest on Friday 17/12/04 in front of DIMIA offices in all cities or states.

2. - A hunger strike on Saturday 18/12/04 demonstrate our strike (depends on your wish).

19:40pm - Arnold Zable just phoned. He's joining Corinne Grant on the hunger strike in Melbourne. And in an update (17/12), they're joined by artist Kate Durham, acclaimed singer and songwriter Kavisha Mazella and artist Diana Greentree.

3. - Sunday 19/12/04 will be media release we request all free-minded Journalists, all human rights defenders and all the churches around Australia (in regard to Jesus toll the bells and remember that Jesus Christ also was a stranger refugee in Egypt) announce our situation to people worldwide.

4. - An E-mail or a letter to the Hon. Kofi Annan [e-mail: sg(at)], United Nation of High Commission for Refugees requesting for a pressure to the Australian Government for our FREEDOM.

For above-mentioned actions, please organize yourselves. As you all are in our mind and heart, we shake your kind and warm hands.

Family First for asylum seekers' summit

The Age
December 16, 2004 - 5:24PM

Australia's newest political party Family First called on the federal government to convene an urgent summit to address the plight of asylum seekers.

Family First federal chairman Peter Harris said Australia's treatment of asylum seekers was wrong and needed to be redressed.

"Family First is calling for (an) urgent summit to be convened to seek public comment to allow for all views to be expressed and then for action to be taken," he said.

"We support tight border security to protect every Australian but I am appealing to the government that compassion and greater consideration can be shown in these circumstances.

"It is time for serious action to be taken and Family First will not let up until change occurs."

Mr Harris said he had contacted the government about convening a summit.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone was returning from a ministerial forum in Papua New Guinea on Thursday and was unavailable for immediate comment.

Meanwhile, refugee advocates said most of the 200 asylum seekers at the Baxter detention centre would have their fourth of fifth Christmas in detention this year.

To highlight their plight, members of Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) said they would hold Christmas vigils in up to 90 rural and regional towns.

RAR spokeswoman Emma Corcoran said 25 Iranian asylum seekers at Baxter were staging a hunger strike to raise public awareness of their years in detention.

"People who are mentally healthy and in control of their lives do not self-harm or go on hunger strikes," she said.

"These are the actions of powerless and despairing people.

"They are so desperate to have a normal life.

"All they want is freedom, but they have all spent four or five years in detention.

"The government could stop the terrible suffering of these people, and save the Australian people millions of dollars, by giving these asylum seekers freedom."

2004 AAP

Link to the article in The Age

Calare's Peter Andren: concerned

Dear Senator Vanstone,

I believe many many Australians will spend this Christmas ashamed at our treatment of detainees in Baxter Detention Centre, and the continued detention of children. I have received many messages from ordinary unaligned non-activist people within my electorate who are very concerned at the events occurring at the detention centre. I realise we have people in detention who have been denied refugee status and who are now facing indefinite incarceration. I realise they may be illegal arrivals under the law, but I am alarmed at comments from the Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists who say the hunger strike is predictable given the severe mental distress of the detainees.

In fact I cannot disagree with the assessment of the Association that Baxter is a de facto psychiatric hospital without the psychiatric staff.I also agree with the Assocaition that the fact these people have exhausted avenues of legal appeal is no justification for inhumane treatment.

As with the Iraki and Afghan asylum seekers, many of whom you have recently granted visas, surely the Iranian detainees have fled regimes they feared. If we argue that we are trying to democratise and 'liberate' such peoples, how tragically ironic is it that we lock up these people and offer them no hope of tasting the freedom they sought in this land.

Peter Andren
Member for Calare
Bathurst NSW

Three men off Baxter roof as Corinne Grant and Arnold Zable prepare for strike

Project SafeCom Inc.
Media Release
Friday December 17 2004 8:45am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

Reports have come in that the three men, who have been on the roof of the Baxter gymnasium for almost two weeks, have come down after police negotiators were successful in persuading the men to do so yesterday evening. No reports have come in that the men who have protested inside the buildings - on last count still more than 20 Iranians - have given up their protest, apart from the fact that one of the men who had stitched his lips, has removed them. The three men have been hospitalized in the Port Augusta hospital.

The end to the 11-day hunger strike on the roof - the only place from where detainees have direct visual contact with anything outside the detention centre - comes as supporters, advocates and activists mobilize for actions and events around Australia.

High profile writer Arnold Zable and comedienne Corinne Grant will embark on a public hunger strike in Melbourne tomorrow, while they expect to be joined by other high profile members of the Melbourne arts community. Activists in several capital cities will protest today in front of city offices of DIMIA, the Department of Immigration, and other hunger strikes and vigils are scheduled in various cities and towns right around Australia.

"The end of the roof strike however, does not end the fury of refugee advocates around Australia", Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit comments. "It seems that it is clear that every common Australian who cares to take note, knows that all Iranians currently still detained in Baxter, have a well-founded fear of persecution."

"This is exactly the definition of the Refugee Convention. With the appalling record of refugee assessment, where 3/4 of the initial assessments by the Department of Immigration were found to be wrong on subsequent appeals, Project SafeCom retains its intense fury with the Minister for Immigration and the Department of Immigration, and demands a full re-opening of all Iranian asylum cases."

"It's clear that the government cannot be trusted that it attempts to approve asylum cases wherever it can, but that, reversely, it has a determination to try and deny asylum wherever it can, when asylum claimants have arrived unannounced, and by boat."

Baxter detainees end rooftop protest

Friday, December 17, 2004. 1:28pm (AEDT)

The Immigration Department has confirmed that three men have ended a rooftop protest at the Baxter detention centre in South Australia's far north.

A spokesman says the men came down from the roof voluntarily last night.

They have been treated at the Port Augusta Hospital.

The spokesman says no undertakings have been given to the three men about their cases.

Another detainee has removed stitches which he had sewn into his lips.

A number of other detainees have been on a hunger strike.

Meanwhile, the group Rural Australians for Refugees plans to hold a carols by candlelight vigil for the Baxter detainees.

Group spokeswoman Kathy Verran says singers will gather outside the fence of the detention centre tomorrow night.

She hopes the carols will help to reassure detainees that they are not forgotten by the local community.

"When we talked about having a carols by candlelight outside Baxter, part of that was that those people that are inside there don't get to often attend things like that, and so we wanted to take a bit of Christmas to them," she said.

Messages from Baxter, 17/12

One: (11.00am) Just had a call from the guys. All are back from hospital and in the compound. They say they had a visit from Adelaide Police and from GSL Management in Canberra, who threatened to move them all into Management Unit (ie: solitary confinement) if they don't break the hunger strike.

They're determined to go on with it, claiming it was their right to do with their body as they wish and that they had not committed an offence or hurt anybody, so no reason to move them to management. Personally, I'm surprised it hasn't already happened.

Two: (11.15am) I just had a phone call from one of the Baxter hunger-strikers. The police have moved into Baxter and GSL is threatening to use them to break the strike and put individuals into isolation, if they continue with the protest. I was asked to pass this news on.

Three: (7.00am, Sat 18/12) There has been an Iranian man, visiting with a GSL person on Thursday and Friday; he said he was a policeman from the South Australian police and had been brought to talk to the guys. Now they are very worried that he's connected to the Iranian government, as he had no ID and they have told him things including their names. He said he had lived in Australia since he was six. His Farsi was very good indeed. His name is Mehrdad Yazrlu.

Bartlett joins hunger strike over asylum seekers

17 Dec 2004

The Australian Democrats Immigration spokesperson Senator Andrew Bartlett, will go on a hunger strike tomorrow in support of the asylum seekers in Baxter who are asking the Immigration Minister to reconsider their cases.

"Some of these asylum seekers are Christians who would face persecution if they return to Iran. It is extraordinary that the Government still insists they go back or remain locked up forever in detention camps," Senator Bartlett said.

"Those asylum seekers on a hunger strike have been locked up for years and they feel they have no other options left. It is important for them to know that many people in the Australian community support them in their struggle for justice."

"Hunger strikes are a sign of the desperation of the situation while the Government just stonewalls. Over many years the Democrats have tried reasoning with the Government, moving amendments, and appealing to their sense of decency. In the cases of those still in Baxter, nothing seems to have worked."

Senator Bartlett visited hunger strikers on Nauru again early this year and recently became one of the only MPs to visit detainees on Christmas Island. He has visited Baxter a number of times.

"Australia's detention centres are a continuing litany of disasters. Despite costing Australian taxpayers billions of dollars, the Government is happy to let the situation continue to fester.

"Many Australians who oppose the Government's policy are taking action tomorrow, either protesting or joining the hunger strike," concluded Senator Bartlett.

Bartlett plans hunger strike over Baxter detainees

Friday, December 17, 2004. 4:14pm (AEDT)

Queensland Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett will begin a hunger strike this weekend to protest the conditions of detainees in the Baxter detention centre.

Mr Bartlett says he wants to show support for the asylum seekers and raise awareness of their condition.

He says the detainees' situation is becoming more desperate.

"I've always encouraged people not to engage in hunger strikes in the past, and I still don't encourage them to do so," he said.

"I'd have to say they're really at the stage where they simply have no alternative."

Australian Party Leader to Join Hunger Strike

Reuters News
Fri Dec 17, 2004 02:10 AM ET

CANBERRA (Reuters) - The leader of a small Australian political party will begin a hunger strike on Saturday in support of about 20 Iranian asylum seekers held at a rural immigration detention center who have refused food for almost two weeks.

Andrew Bartlett, leader of the Australian Democrats which have seven members of the national parliament's upper house, said he would remain fasting until the men held at the remote Baxter detention center in South Australia state ended their protest.

Several of the Baxter group have stitched their lips shut as part of the protest against Canberra's refusal to grant them sanctuary. Three men, who had been protesting on the roof of the center, agreed to come down on Friday and were taken to hospital.

"Those asylum seekers on a hunger strike have been locked up for years and they feel they have no other options left," Bartlett said in a statement on Friday.

"It is important for them to know that many people in the Australian community support them in their struggle for justice."

The Baxter protest is similar to one staged in January by 35 Afghan men held in an Australian-funded detention camp on the Pacific island of Nauru, when several sewed their lips together.

Refugee activists Project Safecom said there were about 20 men still on hunger strike inside Baxter, but a spokesman for the Immigration Department said the figure was less than that.

"It needs to be emphasized that no undertakings have been given to those withdrawing from the protest," the spokesman said.

There are 252 people detained at Baxter, which is primarily used for boat people who arrive in the country illegally.

Australia has one of the world's strictest immigration policies, detaining all asylum seekers, illegal workers and anyone overstaying their visas in guarded camps while their cases are handled, a process that can take years.

Australia has six detention camps on its soil.

The controversial camps, which have been condemned by international human rights groups, have been hit by a string of protests, hunger strikes, riots, escapes and suicide bids.

Link to the Reuters article

No Room at the Aussie Inn for Forgotten Asylum Seekers

Newcastle Greens
Media Release
17 December 2004

About thirty people gathered in Civic Park on Thursday 16 December for a couple of hours to stand quietly in solidarity with the Baxter detainees on hunger strike in Port Augusta.

Standing with home made placards as the late afternoon traffic passed was one simple way to remember the struggle of these asylum seekers since arriving in Australia.

"Many people have waved and honked their car horns in support, a few passers-by have been negative, but people do care. We just want our government to care as well and release these detainees into the community pending their future," said Anne McLaughlin, Newcastle Greens Spokesperson on Refugee Issues.

"Many of the protesters have been detained (imprisoned) for four years or more.

"Why? - Because they didn't enter Australia correctly. They left their homes in Iran, a place we consider part of the Axis of Evil, in fear of their lives. They arrived here and asked for asylum, which has been so far denied. They have been imprisoned indefinitely in conditions regarded internationally as cruel and inhumane.

"And they are so desperate at being locked away and forgotten that they will get onto a hot rooftop in desert conditions in summer and go on a hunger strike to protest."

Further vigils to draw attention to the plight of these people are planned for the near future, with Rural Australians for Refugees, calling for local vigils across Australia in the next few days.

Contact: Anne McLaughlin [phone inserted]

Photos: One | Two | Three | Four | Five

Actors, artists, & musicians respond to plea for help from Baxter hunger strikers

Refugee Action Collective, Victoria
Friday, 17 December 2004
(for immediate release)
Attention: Chiefs of staff, Radio Producers, Editors

Over 20 Iranian asylum seekers inside Baxter Detention Centre are currently involved in a hunger strike, and their numbers are increasing daily. A broad coalition of refugee advocates are planning to hold a public fast on Saturday December 18 in support of these desperate people.

In Melbourne supporters will fast from midnight tonight until midnight tomorrow, and will join together outside the GPO (corner Bourke & Elizabeth Streets) from 10am-5pm to call for freedom and justice for the people incarcerated at Baxter.

A range of well known Melbourne identities will join the public fast, which organisers say will be a colourful and vibrant show of solidarity for the people inside Baxter.

Arnold Zable, author and spokesperson for the Melbourne Centre of PEN International, says we cannot afford to remain silent when confronted by the horrifying reality of the Howard government's mandatory detention regime. He describes the conditions under which people are detained as cruel and barbaric.

Artist and convenor of Spare Rooms for Refugees, Kate Durham, comedian Corrine Grant, actor and vice-president of Actors for Refugees, Diana Greentree, and musician Kavisha Mazzella, are also planning to join the public fast.

Together they reject the suggestion that attempting to publicise the plight of the Baxter hunger strikers amounts to encouraging behaviour which may lead to grave physical injury or death. 'My first concern is for the health of the refugees', Durham said. 'But since they have decided to take this action, I feel obliged to do everything within my power to call attention to the conditions which have forced them to take such drastic measures'.

Diana Greentree accused the government of imprisoning people who have done nothing but seek freedom 'in a country they foolishly believed to be a freedom-loving democracy'.

'Our Government's callous disregard for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which it is a signatory) demonstrates its mean-spirited hypocrisy when it espouses its adherence to Christian principles', Greentree said.

• Arnold Zable, Kate Durham, Corrine Grant, Diana Greentree, and Kavisha Mazzella will be available for media interviews & photos between 2&3 pm at the GPO, Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne, this Saturday 18 December.

• For more information contact Refugee Action Collective spokesperson, Emma Larking: [phone contacts inserted] on Saturday.

First Report (8/12) | Second Report (12/12) | Third Report (14/12) | Fourth Report (16/12) | Fifth Report (18/12) | Sixth Report (21/12) | Seventh Report (24/12)


  • At Friday, December 17, 2004 1:17:00 PM, Blogger Roma said…

    Australia may well be in flagrant breach of Article 16 of the CONVENTION AGAINST TORTURE and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, if the actions of the GSL Management in Canberra in using the SA Police to give substance to their threat to move the Baxter hunger strikers into the Baxter Management Unit (ie: solitary confinement) were the hunger strikers not to break their hunger strike, in fact amount to acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1 in as much as the intimidation of such conduct is capable of inflicting severe mental pain or suffering on the hunger stikers.

    The immediate aspect of the threats that is concerning for Australia is the conduct that amounts to degrading punishment, which would seem to be implicit in the threat made, to persons in need of humane treatment by medical care, to have them incarcerated in solitary confinement.

    The fact of a "degrading" treatment or punishment that may amount to torture under Article 1 were the relevant intention present, and the circumstances involve one of the relevant purposes of coercion, punishment, discrimination, is tied up with the "inhuman" aspect of "cruel" treatment or punishment.

    For persons in weakened health and needing careful medical treatment this is especially so rather with the aspect of how "inhumane" such additional treatment as threats of solitary confinement may be.

    However in as far as Article 16 applies where torture is not present, so that there is still a lawful requirement that "no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", the 'inhumane' aspect may well predominate.

    Owing to the severe consequences of intentional, reckless and/or inadvertent "torture" comprised by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (and whether under Articel 1 or Article 16), for the hunger striker, it should be a policy that delegated authority be strictly guided by an express written protocol to err on the side of caution, and release hunger strikers at least to psychiatric or medical care, whenever it may not be absolutely clear that NO discrimination could possibly be involved on any ground such as race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, sex, age etc., or whenever it may not be absolutely clear that no coercion could be felt by the hunger striker to end the hunger strike from whatever deliberate precursor actions to end the hunger strike were being used with the effect, or whenever punishment is threatened in respect of hunger striking, and which potential discrimination, coercion or punishment were reasonably capable of being seen to be having the effect, of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, on the hunger striker prior to any action to force an end to the hunger stike.
    Article 16
    Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article 1, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture or references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

  • At Friday, December 17, 2004 4:33:00 PM, Blogger Project_SafeCom said…

    Of course we are in breach. Totally and utterly. But, as long as "you-know-who" is the Attorney-General, the signature from the A-G needed for the court case to go ahead, will not be given, my hunch is.....


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