A temporary detention centre, the Easter Bunny, and refugee supporters handing out free Easter eggs met worshippers and passers-by outside Melbourne St Paul’s Cathedral today in a protest against mandatory detention and the construction of a new detention centre on Christmas Island:
From a media release issued by protest organisers the Refugee Action Collective Victoria (www.rac-vic.org):
The Easter Bunny will join refugee supporters on Easter Sunday inside a detention centre to be erected outside St Paul’s Cathedral in central Melbourne from 11.30am TODAY.
The protest action will highlight the cruel, arbitrary nature of detention, and the suffering inflicted on those seeking refuge from persecution in Australia.
Protest organiser, the Refugee Action Collective Victoria (RAC Victoria), joins human rights, religious, and other refugee advocacy groups in condemning the recent transfer of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, and the continued imprisonment of Burmese asylum seekers, on Nauru.
Today’s protest coincides with news of a hunger strike at Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney that dramatically escalated yesterday (Friday) with more than 100 people, a majority of the detainees, across all nationalities, joining the protest. A Chinese asylum seeker has been hospitalised.
RAC Victoria spokesperson Tim Petterson described mandatory detention as an appalling abuse of basic human rights, and pointed to the well documented mental and physical deterioration suffered by people already traumatised by their flight from persecution.
Protest organisers are also calling on the Government to halt construction of a $500 million high security immigration prison on Christmas Island. The prison bears all the hallmarks of an Australian Guantanamo Bay, but is even more horrific because it has been designed for men, women, and children that are not accused of any crime.
Leaked plans reveal the new detention centre, located 1000 kms off the Australian mainland and set to open mid-2007, includes hundreds of closed circuit cameras, movement-sensitive microwave detectors and a babies’ compound.
“The expansion of Australia’s mandatory detention regime, and the plan to lock up children and babies on Christmas Island, proves the Howard Government’s mendacity, and its willingness to lie to its own Ministers as well as the public about its intentions,” said Mr Petterson.
“The Government has repeatedly promised to make mandatory detention ‘more humane’; but its intention is to inflict suffering, and to deny innocent people the right to seek refuge from persecution.”
“Mandatory detention makes a mockery of a society supposedly based on the rule of law. This Easter we are calling on the Prime Minister to live by the Christian values he espouses, and to immediately shut down a system which destroys innocent lives and debases us all.”
Leaked architectural plans, photos and further information about the new detention centre can be found at: http://www.rac-vic.org/