Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Refugee rights: Villawood detainees on hunger strike - Kiribilli convergence

Sunday, April 8, 2007 - 100 Villawood detainees on hunger strike

The Refugee Action Coalition says more than 100 people at Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre are now on a hunger strike. Some of the hunger-strikers have entered their 10th straight day without food as authorities reinforced fences and put on extra officers in anticipation of a torrid Easter weekend at Sydney's Villawood detention centre...
Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition says the inmates are staging the protest over the recent deportation of a Chinese woman. He says they are very worried about what will happen to the Chinese detainees when they are sent back to their country.

"Most of the people who have been deported are among the group of Chinese that were interviewed by Chinese Government officials in 2005, so they are particularly vulnerable," he said.

"The Chinese Government has got all the details they have, and they have got them courtesy of the Australian Government inviting them into the detention centre."

Mr Rintoul says the inmates are desperate to be heard. "I think it's a measure of the desperation - what the people say to us is that they face a much worse fate if they are returned to China," he said.

"They even say they would rather die here, fighting against being deported, than to be sent back to face what will happen to them at the hands of the Chinese authorities."

Meanwhile, protesters rallied outside the Prime Minister's Sydney residence to speak against the Howard Government's policies on war, climate change, immigration and industrial relations. The speakers included Greens senator Kerry Nettle and refugee activists highlighting an on-going hunger strike at Sydney's Villawood Immigration Detention Centre.

The group say they will converge outside the Villawood Detention Centre to show solidarity for the hunger strikers. The hunger strikers have asked for an end to forced deportations, an end to mandatory detention, and for the immigration department to provide information about the fate of those deported.

Devotees of the Falun Gong sect and supporters are protesting against the harsh tactics of the Department of Immigration and detention centre guards during three deportations of Chinese citizens in the past fortnight.

Yuan Huimil, the sole woman among them, was taken to hospital on Wednesday night for rehydration and is now under medical supervision.

The protesters are demanding an end to forced deportations and long-term detention- demanding that the department contact lawyers and refugee groups before any deportations.

"The minister cannot pretend he doesn't know either about the mistreatment of the Chinese detainees in Villawood or the human rights abuses of the Chinese Government," said Ian Rintoul.

"We are urging him to urgently intervene before the hunger strikers suffer long-term damage to their health or worse."

An Immigration Department spokeswoman said eight people are refusing food but are still taking fluids. Extra guards, NSW police officers and an ambulance have been stationed at Villawood.

ABC News
News Ltd

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