[ 22. Sep 2010 // letzte änderung: 23. Sep 2010 ]

One detainee dead - others continue protesting at Villawood

Protestres on the roof of Villawood detention centre

In an tragic event in an Australian detention centre the 36 year old Josefa Rauluni has jumped to his death at the Villawood detention centre on 20th of September 2010, the day he was to be deported. Protests inside the detention centre still going on. Solidarity protests are being organised in support of the detainees.


Rooftop protests for freedom

A number of asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected and who are upset at the treatment of Josefa Rauluni have climbed on September 20 onto the roof at Villawood and have threatened to jump. Their banner reads "We need hope and freedom".

Information from inside Villawood was that people had been beaten by guards because they had shown support for the rooftop protests.

The 11 mainly Tamil detainees agreed on September 21 to come down from the roof after securing an agreement for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, to review their asylum claims. The UNHCR "deal" is really only what the UNHCR will usually do in any case ie review cases once Australian avenues exhausted. If they think there is a problem they will make recommendations to the government.

The fact that some of the Tamils have Indonesian or Malaysian UNHCR cards gives the Australian UNHCR more reason to take an interest, since it means the UNHCR judged their claims for refugee status legitimate while they were in Indonesia or Malaysia en route to Australia.

But the protest did force immigration to bring UNHCR into the detention centre and proof that protest does work. The deal at least provided a reason to be able to end the protest with some achievement.

But we also see false promises given by the authorities: Meanwhile, the 11 men who ended a standoff on the centre's roof have been placed in isolation, despite assurances they would not be punished.

Rooftop protests continues

On September 22 morning, ten Chinese people, including a three month pregnant lady, started protests on the roof of a building in stage 2 at the detention centre, the same compound where Josefa Rauluni suicided on Monday. They claim to have been on a hunger strike since Monday, and all are threatening to jump if the authorities don't agree to give them refugee protection visas.

Details of their individual cases and demands are still not clear, cut being Chinese and in stage 2, it is likely they are mostly students or tourists who had overstayed their visas and who may have made an asylum claim.

Four of the roof top protesters have cut themselves but have refused medical attention saying why should they see a doctor, they will die anyway. They have proposed that Immigration meet with a delegation of other asylum seekers as their representatives but this has so far been rejected by the Department. The Department has insisted that they will only speak with the protesters after they come down from the roof.

The protesters have also agreed to end their protest if UNHCR agrees to undertake an independent review of their cases. This is something that is often down by UNHCR after appeals processes have been exhausted under Australian law.

Hunger strike

There is also a hunger strike occurring at Villawood. Sixteen Iranian and Kurdish asylum seekers have been on a dry hunger strike (ie also refusing liquids) since last Friday, September 17.

Their physical condition is deteriorating badly. Three Iranian men, aged, 42, 31 and 34 were taken to hospital Tuesday afternoon. The fourth man was taken early Wednesday morning, September 22. There are serious concerns for the health of those hospitalised and for those remaining on hunger strike. Even a few days without liquids can cause serious long-term health problems.

Solidarity from outside

A group of 20 to 30 people went to Villawood on Monday night, September 20, to show solidarity with the detainees after Josefa Rauluni in the prison committed suicide and 10 Tamils were still on the roof protesting.

The group shouted "Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons" and played drums, occasionally going quiet to hear the chants of the detainees. Some people inside Villawood sent sms's saying that they could hear the group and that they were happy to hear some solidarity.

A series of actions took place in various parts of Sydney on September 21 in solidarity with the detainees at Villawood detention center. At about 4.00 pm a dozen people occupied the Department of Immigration in central Sydney, saying that they would stay in occupation till the Villawood detainees' demands are met. The mood was somber, knowing that three men have said that they would committ suicide at Villawood by 5.00pm today if they were not able to speak with immigration officials.

An other action undertaken in solidarity with those on the roof involved a few hundred people heading out to Villawood so that they could be visible and heard by detainees in a strong and direct show of support.

30 or so people who hung banners and handed out flyers during peak hour were taking over of a public square in Newtown.

A further protest of refugee supporters was held on September 22 afternoon at Villawood detention centre, Gurney Rd entrance.

The Refugee Action Coalition Sydney calls for urgent protests in solidarity with Villawood detainees on Friday, September 24. The rally starts on 530pm from Town Hall: "The 10 Chinese detainees, including a 3 month pregnant woman, remain protesting on the roof of a building in stage 2 at Villawood detention centre. A number of Iranian detainees are still on hunger striker and several have been taken to hospital. Let them know they have support on the outside."

In Melbourne a rally in solidarity with the Villawood detainees will take place to demand the end of mandatory detention and to stop the deportations.

RISE calls for a vigil on Monday September 27, 7:00pm - 8:00pm: Light a candle for the spirit of Freedom in memory of Josefa Rauluni a Fijian asylum seeker who died in Villawood detention centre and all those like him who have died seeking freedom. (...) We encourage the people of Australia to come together and light a candle for the sprit of freedom.

A national refugee rights protest has been called on the lawns of Parliament House Canberra for the opening day of the new minority Labor government, Tuesday September 28, 12.30pm.

Under the :: Australian Labor Party's (ALP) harsh stand on asylum seekers history is now repeating itself as desperate and traumatized people locked up in detention prisons turn to self-harm due to their plight. It is time that mandatory detention is abolished once for all and the racist policies of both the ALP and the Liberals are abandoned.

National :: "Stand Up for Refugees" protests are planned for Saturday, October 23, the ninth anniversary of the sinking of the :: SIEV X, which cost 352 lives. It also coincides with a year since the boat load of Tamil asylum seekers were intercepted by the Indonesian navy and taken to Merak and the interception of the Tamils on the Oceanic Viking.

Media Releases from support groups

Fourth Villawood Hunger Striker Hospitalised at Villawood, September 22, 2010

A fourth Iranian hunger striker, aged 25, was taken from Villawood to Bankstown hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Sixteen Iranian and Kurdish asylum seekers have been on a dry hunger strike (ie also refusing liquids) since last Friday.

Their physical condition is deteriorating badly. Three Iranian men, aged, 42, 31 and 34 were taken to hospital Tuesday afternoon. The fourth man was taken early Wednesday morning.

There are serious concerns for the health of those hospitalised and for those remaining on hunger strike. Even a few days without liquids can cause serious long-term health problems.

Meanwhile the roof top protest by 10 Chinese asylum seekers continues in Stage 2, the same compound where the Fijian man, Josefa Rauluni, suicided on Monday.

"No-one takes such protest action unless they have serious fears for their lives," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, "There should be an immediate review of their cases. The department has made too many mistakes deporting people to danger in China. You would think the department and the Minister would learn from Josefa's death this week and not wait for another tragedy to unfold."

"A review is necessary particularly given the announcement from the Minister Chris Bowen that he will introduce complementary protection legislation before the end of the year," said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, "We would call on the Minister to place a moratorium of all deportations and to review all current asylum cases to establish whether they fall within the bounds of the new legislation."

"But the crisis in Villawood is a direct result of maintaining mandatory detention and offshore processing. As long as the Labor government maintains these policies it will be guilty of abusing the human rights of asylum seekers."

A protest of refugee supporters will be held this afternoon at Villawood detention centre, 4.30pm, Gurney Rd entrance.

For more information contact: Refugee Action Coalition, Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713.

RISE Exclusive media release from Villawood Detention Center, 21/09/2010

The eleven refugees protesting on the roof of the Villawood Detention Centre are continuing their hunger strike. Rise Case Workers and CEO Ramesh Fernandez have been communicating directly with detainees and have received reports of detainees refusing water and in some cases, slashing themselves and even threatening suicide. RISE is advised that as yet the injured detainees have not received medical attention. The protesting asylum seekers have had their refugee claims rejected and have been detained indefinitely due to decisions pending on their respective cases. They are refusing to come down off the roof until they speak with officials from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) regarding their refugee claims.

One of these asylum seekers has been recognised as a refugee by the UNHCR. In a statement to the media, a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said they were "reasonably confident" they would be able to negotiate with the protesters. However, RISE is informed that the refugees are yet to receive any communication from immigration officials. The asylum seekers are claiming that Australia has unfairly rejected their claims and are asking that they be processed by an alternative country that is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees.

RISE CEO Ramesh Fernandez says "The situation is getting worse and tensions are building among the Villawood detainees. The last thing I want to see is someone getting hurt or committing suicide. I believe that the use of detention to punish refugees who are already damaged and traumatised is immoral."

RISE has received reports of a number of physical confrontations between detention centre officers and detainees who have who tried to climb onto the roof and that little is being done by the authorities to deescalate the situation.

One asylum seeker asks "Why can't they release us? I would prefer to die than be locked up in a detention centre. I'm not going to come down until they tell me I will be released. My wife and children are separated from me. I have nothing left to lose; I'm already a dead man without them".

The Australian Government currently detains over 2400 asylum seekers centres in similar or worse conditions to those that have lead to this protest in Villawood. Over 400 of them are children. Most of these asylum seekers come from countries with no primary access to UNHCR processing of their refugee claims, forcing them to seek refuge in countries like Australia or face persecution. Australian detention centres also hold those who are recognised by UNHCR as refugees.

Asylum seekers have now been on the Villawood detention centre roof for the last 11hrs without food and water. RISE remains in contact with the refugees and will continue to report on the situation as new information comes to hand.

Sources ::, 20. Sep 2010, :: 21. Sep 2010, ::, ::, ::, 22. Sep 2010, :: 21. Sep 2010, and mainstream media reports.