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Issue #1635      April 16, 2014

Villawood asylum seekers declare mass hunger strike

Villawood asylum seekers began a mass hunger strike on Sunday (no-one took lunch) in protest at the forced transfers from Villawood to Curtin and Yongah Hill.

The first group of around 40 were transferred to Curtin that morning after police broke a blockade attempting to stop buses taking asylum seekers from Villawood to the airport.

A second group, mostly Vietnamese, is scheduled to be forcibly transferred to Yongah Hill in Western Australia next Saturday.

Asylum seekers have also spelled out “HELP” and “FREEDOM” in large letters on the lawn area inside the detention centre.

Security company Serco and immigration staff at Villawood detention centre are also desperately trying to force an 83-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker, Fatima, into a wheel chair so she can be taken to the bus to be transported to the airport and then to detention in Darwin.

“We are calling on the Minister to call off the transfer. Brutalising an 83-year-old is too high a price for the bureaucratic convenience of the Immigration Department. The mother and daughter can easily be accommodated in the Villawood detention centre. Indeed a psychiatric report has recommended that Fatima be placed in the community,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“You might think at 83, having fled Iraq and UAE, she would be entitled to some peace, security, and proper care,” said Rintoul.

The IHMS doctor at Villawood has refused to examine Fatima to make a report on whether Fatima is “fit to fly”. Fatima’s 38-year-old daughter, Intisar, says that her mother is too sick and upset to fly. “She is lying in bed and cannot move,” Intisar told the Refugee Action Coalition.

Despite her reports of kidney and other pain and her history of heart problems, Serco and immigration have spent hours trying to force her onto the bus.

Refugee supporters have been at the gates of Villawood detention centre since 6.30am this morning to protest against the forced transfers of asylum seekers from Villawood to remote and less accessible detention centres.

The report of the self-immolation of a Tamil refugee has also shocked and outraged refugee supporters.

“That an asylum seeker could be driven to such desperation is directly attributable to the government’s harsh policies punishing bridging visa holders and the flaws in the refugee determination process,” said Ian Rintoul.

A major rally and march to “Declare Peace on Refugees” was held on Palm Sunday in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Speakers included, Phil Glendenning (Edmund Rice Centre), Hazara Youth Perspectives, Firas Naji (Arab Council Australia) and Aboriginal activist, Dulcie Flowers.

Next article – Abbott tour – more about war than trade

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