Melbourne’s Refugee Action Collective (RAC-Vic) organised a rally and march to the so-called Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre in Broadmeadows, a prison-like facility which currently houses more than 140 young asylum seekers aged 13-18, ‘[most] of them teenage boys whose fathers, brothers or other family members have been killed and their families have sent them out of the country to save their lives’ (RAC-Vic release; see also http://www.rac-vic.org/media-releases/media_11_03_29.htm). After gathering in a carpark on Sydney Road, where Greens MLC Colleen Hartland gave a brief address, the rally marched down Camp Road to the centre to protest at the main gate, where there were further speakers, including Hyder Gulam, President of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Nicole Mousely of RAC-Vic, Gilios Kogoya, a West Papuan activist and refugee, Kumar Pathmanathan of the Tamil Refugee Council, Wayne Klempel, AMWU Northern District Secretary, Alex Bhathal of the Greens, North-East Region, and Jacob Lay, a high-school student who read a statement from the point of view of someone the same age as the young people locked up inside…
Various shots during the march:
At the centre:
While the speeches were going on, people had the opportunity to add messages to a banner, which would then be strung on the wire:
Another banner pinned to the wire:
In conclusion, balloons were released to fly over the centre:
But there were interruptions to the planned course of the event: a group of detainees could be seen in the distance at one point waving and shouting, their path to the gate blocked by guards and uniformed police:
One person from the rally managed to scale a side fence and was promptly arrested (she was eventually driven off in police van when most of the rally had dispersed, to loud cheers from those remaining):
A police officer saw fit to spray two protesters, one wheelchair bound, in the face for being too close to the gate (he was soon after removed from the area by his superiors):
Most dramatic, three boys managed to escape as far as the forecourt, where they were quickly surrounded by a protective circle of sympathisers. Unfortunately, one cut himself on the barbed wire in the process and relapsed into shock. An ambulance had to be called, and after some while he seemed quite recovered. After much discussion an agreement was reached by which the three agreed to return voluntarily to the centre, on the basis that there would then be no adverse repercussions …. In the meantime, the ambulance had been summoned to the centre itself, where the word was that there had been another instance of self-harm. This could not be confirmed.
The above photo was originally posted with the boy’s face blurred, in response to a message requesting that no photos identifying the escapees should be published. This request was widely ignored at the time, and was apparently rescinded later in the afternoon, on which basis this and the next three photos are now added*:
*There is some discussion of this in the comments to the Indymedia report linked to below.
(The car following the ambulance was driven by a worker at the centre who had arrived earlier for his shift but had been unable to get in…)
At time of writing there does not seem to have been any mainstream media reporting of the event; at least one camera crew were present at the start, but stayed only a very short time. Perhaps this attitude of the media goes some way towards explaining why so few people in Melbourne even know of the existence of the centre?
(Added 6.40pm – the ABC 7pm news yesterday evening apparently did carry a report of the event, though as stated above, the reporters had left before the breakout etc. There has been more coverage of the day’s events on Melbourne Indymedia here and here, including links to video on YouTube, showing amongst other things, the use of capsicum spray.)
(Added 6.52pm – this has just appeared on the ABC website – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/04/03/3181017.htm?section=justin)