Refugees detained indefinitely: No sunlight in sight

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Protesters chanted 'Let him hug his son' as refugee Saif Ali Saif was denied an opportunity to do so at the peaceful demonstration at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, 12 June (Screenshot via Refugee Solidarity Brisbane-Meanjin / Facebook)

At Kangaroo Point in Brisbane, a socially distant crowd of refugee supporters gathered in protest against ongoing immigration. Jane Salmon reports.

"This is my message: We are one family and one nation. Today, part of this family is locked up in gaol, in detention. My message to this beautiful family is love."

~ Mostafa "Moz" Azimitabar
(Detained without sunlight for eight months in Melbourne

My own message for Refugee Week is a bit less benign. 

How can we do this to our fellow humans? Even pets are allowed sunshine and a run in the park. So much for “health” care under Medevac. These are people kept hostage to "deter boats" for over 2,524 days (almost seven years).

These people have committed no crime. They only picked an unpopular mode of arrival.

At Kangaroo Point in Brisbane on the weekend, a socially distant crowd of refugee supporters sang 'Amazing Grace', 'Blowing in the Wind' and ">chanted, "Let him hug his son"

The story of the separation of one Kangaroo Point detainee from his family has moved many.

The mostly congenial, sometimes boisterous, crowd outside Kangaroo Point is now said to be "intimidating" to the 130kg (on average) Serco guards who have caged 110 innocent Medevac detainees for up to a year.

Who are we caging? And for what? Who needs defending from these exhausted refugees? No one! 

These people are as calm and dignified as depressed, unvisited, medically undertreated inmates could possibly be. 

Today, slender detainees are not currently receiving food because vehicle inspections by demonstrators have offended Serco. The detainees have now asked us not to complain.

Banner opposite Mantra Hotel (Image supplied)

Men were moved for speaking out. Last Friday, Farhad Rahmiti in Brisbane has been isolated alongside convicted criminals in the high-security BITA Thompson compound.

Apparently, Rahmiti is just a bit too articulate. 

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is seeking to extend his security powers even further and ban mobile phones for detained refugees.

Ministerial discretion is used to torture the Biloela Tamil family on Christmas Island but not the high rolling arrivals that the Coalition Government favours.

Shame on TV reporters that ignore all this and yet focus on minor expressions of protester negativity.

Shame on those who fail to tell the story of human compassion, the creative musical and artistic expression, the order and self-discipline of protests.

Shame on media there only to witness minor expressions of frustration.

Shame on the media ghouls craving argy-bargy with police and not kindness. Shame on those who “other” people who have a need to express their concern, trauma or care. 

Shame on the “tut-tutters” sitting in their living rooms still scandalised that protests occur during COVID-19.

Shame on them for identifying with the “needs” of crowded supermarket/Bunnings/Ikea/footy venues and churchgoers but not of altruists concerned about indefinite detention or #BlackLivesMatter. 

Shame on us for milking cash from richer migrants and then abandoning them during the pandemic.

And shame on us for denying migrant workers the means to live during the lockdown or the adjustment to life in a new land.

Shame on the Labor Opposition for failing to put hard boundaries on Coalition Government corrupt contracts for detention, "Operation Sovereign Borders" hard nuts and Dutton, who wants to ramp up security legislation even further and remove mobile phones from detainees. Labor is complicit in the erosion of human rights in this nation. 

Not once has Shadow Minister for Home Affairs Kristina Keneally discussed the abuse by proxy in Papua and New Guinea’s Bomana immigration Centre (BIC) where men were bullied and starved to shadows of their former selves without access to phones. This nasty experiment – which the Papuans were paid to administer, so as to circumvent Australian law – only ended when UNHCR stepped in. 

The eighth year of Sovereign Borders and offshore abuse begins in July 2020. People who still carry the weight of trauma they escaped in their homelands and the scars of abuse received in our care are still being denied freedom.

It has seen a frail 78-year-old Iranian woman, Masoumeh Torkpour, languish behind bars for 11 years.

No more linen shrouds for offshore detainees. No more heartbreak and salt in the wounds of families broken by immigration detention. 

The vibrant activists on the streets of Brisbane prove that we can care, we can be better than this.

All those deprived of their liberty for so long have expressed is gratitude to activists.

Moz is right. It only with love we can fix this.

Shame on us all that there is still no end in sight.

Jane Salmon is a refugee advocate. You can follow her on Twitter @jsalmonupstream.

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