Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Activism

What better way to spend Easter than protesting the imprisonment of refugees! I went on a week-long trip with Refugee Rights Activist Network (RRAN), a group that I was introduced to at Orientation Day (O Day) before school started. They had mentioned this trip that they were planning up to Curtain Detention Centre near Derby, WA (near Broome) and I had thought that sounded like something I would be interested in, so I kept up with it and went along! I hadn't been able to go to any of the pre-departure meetings cause they're at the same time as choir practice, so I really had no idea what was going to happen, I just knew that we were going to go deliver dictionaries and chocolate eggs to the detainees.

When I was on public transport to the East Perth train station (the meeting point) I was pretty nervous about going on such a long trip with a bunch of strangers. When I got off at East Perth a girl named Beth came up to me and asked if I was with the group going up North, so we found the group together. I only really talked to a few people on the way up, but mostly read my book that I brought and did some studying. I took some pictures of the surroundings through the bus on the way up, so you can get an idea of the WA landscape. The big mounds are termite mounds, amazing; they build them up like this in the warm areas and it helps with cooling, in the center of Australia where it gets really cold at night, they are built into the ground to help with heating. We went far enough north to encounter crocs, but we didn't see any.

We camped at a place called 80 Mile Beach, which had a caravan park. There is an amazing beach there which I strolled around the morning before we left. We also had a run through of what we should and shouldn't do if we were arrested at the protest, and were given cards of a lawyer that was going to cover us for the week. I decided that I wasn't going to take part in anything that could possibly get me arrested, just because I didn't want to jeopardize my schooling and did not want to have to worry about the possibility of deportation. I wasn't sure if that would be the case, but best not to take any chances.
Here are some pics of 80 Mile Beach and our campsite.

When we got to the detention centre we were expecting to be able to have a few one-on-one meetings with some of the detainees. Our plan was to put about 4 people in, but we heard later that we should be able to send about 8 people in at a time. When we got there they wouldn't let anyone in. The ending time for visits was 5:00 and we got there around 3:00. They kept making excuses for why we couldn't go in, first it was that they didn't have the paperwork of visitor applications that were sent in 2 weeks in advance and that people had gotten confirmation emails from Serco (the company that runs these detention centres, as well as prisons etc). Then they were saying that the names were spelled phonetically and not correct, which was also bullshit cause people who had filled out applications had been emailing their detainee and had made sure the correct spelling of their name beforehand. Then they said that some people didn't put down the detainee's boat number (in the centres they are not known by their name, but by the boat they came on and then the number they were coming off of the boat). Some of the people in our group also had contact with the person on the inside that they were going to visit. We didn't have good cell phone service at the gate, so one person went a bit away to find good reception and she was told from the inside that the guards told the detainees that we had turned the bus around and left, which wasn't the case.

There were a few people that had come from Sydney that were in the centre visiting for legal advising while we were waiting outside and the guards were also saying that we couldn't go in and visit cause there wasn't enough room cause they were already in there, which is also bullshit cause we knew the amount of visiting room they have (there were people in the group who had visited before, and one of our videographers was detained in Curtain for 2 years) and there would have been plenty of room for all of us. Later on, when we met with the others that had been inside, they told us what went on inside, and also mentioned that one of them got a look at the visitor list and there were 8 names down that they recognized from our group down to have visited that day. So it was complete bullshit that they "didn't know we were coming". The saddest part is that this is the type of shit that the detainees deal with day in and day out for everything in there! They deal with this for when they have to receive medical attention, and sometimes for when they have to go to the toilet! I heard a story of a man that had serious back problems and the doctor said he needed surgery as soon as possible. They took x-rays, but Serco wouldn't let him keep his own x-rays cause "he would lose them" and when the time came for the surgery Serco had lost his x-rays and so 6 months later he still hasn't had his surgery. There was another man I heard of from Afghanistan that was denied because they said it was safe to go back to his home country, so they were going to send him back to SRI LANKA.

Anyway, they jerked us around like this until visiting hours were up, then we headed to the area nearby where we were camping. Here are some pictures from that day. (there were dragonflies everywhere, so that's what the black spots in the sky are).

to be continued...

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