Hungerstrike: Minister Evans can start evacuating Villawood from tomorrow morning

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Hungerstrike: Minister Evans can start evacuating Villawood from tomorrow morning

Media Release
Sunday November 9, 2008 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

(Villawood contact: Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition, [phone number posted])

"Yesterday evening's declaration of a hungerstrike by the entire Villawood resident population, by those in Stage 1, 2 and 3, supported by all 135 men and women (see statement below) provides Immigration Minister Chris Evans with the best opportunity he could have thought of, to start a complete evacuation of Villawood and house everyone in the community, thus bringing him in line with the statement of intent and promises he made in a speech at Australian National University a few months ago," WA Human Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.

"There is no need for more assessments, more inquiries and more reports about whether we should or should not lock people up in Villawood: Minister Evans is fully aware that the centre is a facility that's well below the standard - he has even acknowledged this himself," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

"We've most recently heard an opinion about this inferior standard of Villawood from Mr Graeme Innes, Australia's Human Rights Commissioner, when he testified before the Joint Standing Committee's Australia-wide Inquiry hearings, and said that Villawood was the worst detention facility he had ever seen (as reported on October 24)."

"We've heard this opinion about Villawood expressed on many occasions, also in the Australian Parliament, and as long ago as the time that Senator Amanda Vanstone was Australia's Immigration Minister."

"And the fact that Australia has now signed the UN Convention for Torture and Degrading Treatment, places Minister Evans in a position, whether he likes it or not, where he is guilty of doling out Torture and Degrading Treatment in Villawood to all its inmates, during every day that he keeps people locked up in that Sydney hell hole."

"The time for lectures about Chris Evans' new principles of detention is over now, and this hungerstrike is the most opportune moment in the Minister's career for him to start evacuating people from Villawood, and start this action from tomorrow morning 9:00am, and start housing its residents in the community."

"This week Chris Evans has the opportunity of showing that he's got the guts he needs, and the political will to implement the decency he has been talking about for months now, because perhaps with the exception of a handful of its 135 residents, they pose no security risk, and perhaps not even a flight risk, if Evans does his job properly."

(Villawood contact: Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Coalition, [phone number posted])

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Villawood: Statement by all 135 residents

Saturday November 8 2008, 21:00pm WA Standard time

We've just received notice that all detainees in all Stages 1, 2 and 3 have started a hunger strike. The hungerstrike involves all nationalities and all those in detention.

They issued the statement below:

After months and sometimes years of indignant treatment, the detainees of the Villawood Immigration and Detention Centre announce a general hunger strike demanding that this open ended policy of indefinite indignity ends.

At a time when the economic realities of the day demand cost reductions everywhere, it is anathema to common sense that the Labor Government still insists on spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a policy the benefit of which is in doubt.

We call on the Labor Party, particularly Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Christopher Evans, who in a March 25th 2005 interview at Parliament House Canberra, was adamant in his call for a royal commission into detention, to:

1. Codify as soon as practicable into the law, his stated intentions that no one spend more than 3 months in detention.

2. Require that any decision made to deny a person release from detention on the basis that he's a risk to the community, be based upon an assessment done by a qualified mental health professional. At this time, such assessments are currently made "on the papers" by bureaucrats far away in Canberra with no formal mental health qualifications or arbitrarily made due to sentences of imprisonment which in some cases have long since expired. The Australian public have a right to expect that decisions made in their name are made by people who are qualified to do so.

3. Release people with ongoing visa matters before the courts. As it stands now people are effectively "punished" for several years by the Migration Act for choosing to appeal against the Minister's decision to not grant or to cancel a visa.

4. Cease and desist (after every decision unfavourable to the department) from amending the Migration Act to circumvent the judicial process of Australia's courts. A recent example of this were cases that found that cancellation of certain visas were unlawful notwithstanding the existence of a criminal conviction and sentence of imprisonment and that required notification processes were not met. The department released people affected by this decision and allowed them to restart their lives only change the law in the middle of the night and negate the court's findings, thus making some of them liable to detention again with out natural justice.

5. Cease and desist from taking "clients" to the high security compound, Stage-1, prior to their anticipated removal from Australia. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) has roundly criticised this facility and if detention itself wasn't enough of a slap in the face, the indignity is made complete by showing unsuccessful visa applicants the front door by way of a compound with all the ambiance of Long Bay Gaol.

We appeal to the Australian community to look beyond the constant stream of 30 second sound-bytes and one paragraph press releases that are used to justify this treatment. We also respectfully ask Australians for the same dignity and respect for human rights in this country that you would demand for an Australian in another country.

The policy of indefinite detention has been in effect for nearly 2 decades and has cost billions. The only true return on the Australian taxpayer's investment is the permanent psychological damage that a voiceless people have had to endure and the large portions of their lives taken from them in the name of political expedience.

Click to check if this page is Valid HTML 4.01! Click to check if this page contains valid Cascading Style Sheets