Anti-deportation rally at DIMIA – 13 May

See also report on Melbourne Indymedia.

View of rally with banner - free the refugees

“If I ever meet an accident today as I go back to my office in Collins Street, and will [not] be able to recollect my past please take note that you are all witnesses that I am Maria Selga, and Australian citizen of 9 years.”

This is how Maria Selga, Chairperson of the Centre for Philippine Concerns Australia – Victoria, ended her address today at Casselden Place, outside the office of DIMIA. Along with Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre she was the main speaker at a snap protest called by the Refugee Action Collective – Victoria in the light of recent events, most especially the ongoing attempts of the government to deport an Ahwazi Arab man snatched from Baxter a few days ago and now believed to be in Bankstown hospital being ‘assessed for fitness to travel’ – to his death? Given the events of recent years now gradually coming to light, Ms Selga may well have been only half joking. About twenty people gathered for the protest, which was called only late yesterday. Steve Cilia from RAC-Vic gave a run-down of the events that triggered it, before handing over to the main speakers – see below. Gillian Davy also spoke, reminding people of the importance of building the rally scheduled for World Refugee Day, June 19.

Maria Selga addressing the rally

“My fellow Australians, our Government deported a battered Australian citizen to a place where she did not receive appropriate medical treatment, and subsequently suffered disability.
“Our Government took her away from her children without her consent. There were witnesses in the airport – a priest,a nun and a doctor – who allegedly came to counsel her before she left…
“The day the news broke out about the missing woman, the Centre for Philippine concerns Australia … began joining the ABC in searching for Vivian Solon … The CMA immediately contacted the Australian embasy in the Philippines … However, they faced a blank wall – Australian officials told them they were briefed not to disclose any information…
“My fellow Australians, Vivian’s case has clearly given us more proof to question how our Government protects its citizens and respects the rights of people whether they are bonafide citizens, asylum seekers or temporary citizens.
“The Filipino community, with a population of more than a hundred thousand, will not take this issue lightly. The experiences of the past week have encouraged us to join the many voices that clamour for changes in the Immigration system…
“In the wake of Vivian’s [location], these are our calls:

That Prime Minister John Howard and Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone should establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the detention and deportation cases in this country, especially people with mental illness and physical disability;
That prior to the Inquiry, Attorney General Philip Ruddock who was Immigration Minister during the period of Vivian’s deportation, and current Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone should resign from their posts…”

Pamela Curr – who also called for a Royal Commission. but stressed that that should be only the beginning. It was time – looking ahead to June 30th – to be ready to take to streets:

Pamela Curr speaking

“The sideshow of the budget and all the rest of it – that’s a sideshow. The real thing that’s happening in this country is that people are being singled out, they’re being discriminated against, their human rights are being breached, and it’s got to stop!”

From a media release issued by the Refugee Action Collective:

The callous and indiscriminate actions of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMIA) toward both our own citizens and those seeking asylum have been fully exposed this week, in two cases which clearly put the lives and safety of innocent people at risk.
A protest action, to be held outside DIMIA’s Melbourne office tomorrow will highlight the case of Australian woman Vivian Alvarez who was wrongly deported to the Philippines four years ago and only recently discovered, and that of an Ahwaz Iranian asylum seeker, currently facing forcible deportation.
Lauren Ireland, from the Refugee Action Collective, said the Australian Government has acted with absolute incompetence and sheer cruelty in both instances.
“The 27 year-old Ahwazi Arab man, who was snatched from Baxter Detention Centre by 15 DIMIA officials, is facing deportation to a country where his people have been victim of persecution and ethnic cleansing for the last 80 years,” she said.
“He has already been put through five years of hell inside Baxter and as ABC’s PM program revealed on Tuesday evening, was denied proper psychiatric care, despite requests by medical specialists stretching back two years.”
She said revelations about another Australian citizen, treated as an ‘illegal’, like Cornelia Rau, were proof the government were both clueless and careless in matters of deportation.
“Just two days ago, Minister of Immigration Amanda Vanstone was claiming her department was unable to locate Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez, who had been wrongly deported to her country of birth, the Philippines four years ago.
“She was soon found and identified in the very same place she had been dumped and was being cared for in a hospice for the dying, run by an Australian priest,” said Ms Ireland. “Alvarez was stripped of her human rights and then simply forgotten about.”
Refugee advocates will be calling for an immediate end to all deportations and a Royal Commission into immigration detention when they converge on DIMIA’s Melbourne office tomorrow.