Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1592      May 8, 2013

Action to close Northam Refugee Detention Centre

On August 26, 2012, about 180 people came to the Northam Immigration Detention Centre at Yongah Hill, WA, calling for the prison-like facility to be closed and for a more humane treatment of people fleeing persecution, famine and war in their homelands. The protesters vowed to return and keep returning until the facility is closed. On April 27, 2013, on a sunny and warm Western Australian day, close to 130 of the protesters returned – some coming from as far afield as Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne – to add their voices to the protest.

What goes on inside these centres and the reasons for the mandatory detention of people seeking asylum is what should be cause for alarm.

A number of speakers addressed the assembly on the verge outside the detention centre including Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney who said that he and others who had gathered to protest the policy of mandatory detention would not be driven by the federal election on September 14, but by achieving their aim of closing not only the Northam Immigration Detention Centre but by the closure of all the centres across Australia that create such despair.

The next speaker was Ian Jamieson from the Maritime Union of Australia who spoke of his union’s long and proud history of social and political activism and how the WA Branch of the MUA had endorsed the rally at Yongah Hill. The union called on other unions to also endorse a position against mandatory detention at centres like Yongah Hill and support the humane treatment of refugees who are fleeing persecution and war in countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. The MUA had many members themselves who had fled their countries as refugees and were now glad they could have jobs and stable lives which many Australians may take for granted.

Marcus Hampson of the Refugee Rights Action Network, the organisers for the Northam Convergence said that in Canada, where there is a large and active Tamil diaspora, pressure has been building for the Canadian government to withdraw its participation at the next CHOGM meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka in November.

The next speaker was Rama, a Sri Lankan refugee who acts as a translator at the Yongah Hill Detention Centre where he visits every second weekend.

He said it was worth noting that there were not many Tamils present at the protest today as there would be photos taken here and sent back to Sri Lanka where their families would be harassed.

Liz and Daniella from the Refugee Action Collective in Victoria said that the Northam Immigration Detention Centre was “An industrial monstrosity that was there to destroy and punish people,” and that “There is no such thing as a nice detention centre and the day should come when all the fences had to be torn down,” and a more humane and dignified system of processing peoples’ claims for asylum be developed.

The loud chanting by the protesters was also returned by the refugees in the distant detention centre, giving hope to their lives as one cannot live without hope.

Across Australia refugee action groups were organising activities for World Refugee Day on June 20. In Perth this will be commemorated on Saturday June 16 outside the Wesley Centre at 1pm.

The Communist Party deplores the xenophobic attitude of governments and some sectors of the media which seek to demonise and scapegoat refugees for problems that are inherent in the exploitative and rapacious nature of global capitalism.   

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