AUS: Detainees set multiple detention centers on fire
01.Jan.03 - Fires and riots have broken out in at least 4 of the 7 asylum seeker detention centers in mainland Australia and in a detention center for boat people on Christmas Island.
New Years eve saw an attempted mass breakout and riot in a Sydneys Villawood detention center, the occupation of a detention center compound on Christmas Island, while fires burned in both of them. In the preceding days Detainees had been rioting in the detention centers in Woomera, Port Headland and Baxter also burning down parts of these facilities.
According to police sources, inmates started fires and attacked guards with iron bars in a breakout attempt by 20 to 30 people at the Villawood detention center in western Sydney. Nearby residents said smoke was pouring from the center from what fire brigade officials said were six fires. According to the authorities at least 80 persons participated in these actions against their inhumane treatment which is part of the mandatory detention in prison like camps enforced on all refugees that manage to reach Australia.
On Christmas Island, 2,400 km (1,450 miles) west of Darwin, boatpeople occupied a detention center compound, setting fire to a dining hall.
Earlier, fires in Woomeras detention-camp in South Australia destroyed or damaged 43 buildings before they were brought under control. No one was seriously injured in the disturbance, but some staff and detainees were treated for smoke inhalation.
Elsewhere there detainees also set buildings on fire at the Port Hedland detention center in Western Australia state
Burn Baxter Burn!
On the same weekend fires destroyed at least 20 rooms were destroyed at the Baxter detention center when inmates apparently set bedding, furniture and shower curtains alight. Baxter is perhaps the most brutal centre for asylum seekers on mainland Australia. As one man locked up there said: "After the people have called Woomera a hell-hole there is no word for Baxter." Refugees at Baxter are confined in segregated compounds, surrounded by a 9000 volt electric fence and subject to 24-hour camera surveillance. People have been beaten and sent to isolation units for asking to visit their friends, refusing to say 'please' to the guards, and demanding edible food. By all accounts, the facility resembles a maximum security prison. The difference is that there are no convicted criminals inside.
Refugee support activists stated their delight with the destruction of parts of the center: "I'm delighted that it's burning", an activist said, "and I hope it burns right to the ground. The detainees are giving us a glimpse of things to come, when the policies of atrocities, the current government is steeped in, come to a permanent end. The Government designed Baxter as the ultimate detention centre, designed to run people's spirits into the ground. With the government involved in refined forms of psychological torture of people inside a hidden-away detention centre, it should be no surprise that the response of detainees is to burn the place down to the ground."
Before this weekends events refugee activists, in a follow up to last years successful protest camp in Woomera, had already called for a massive convergence on baxter during the Easter weekend of this year.
Group 4 Falck: Profiting form detention
Just before Christmas a change in the commercial responsibility for the detention of asylum seekers in Australia was announced by the Australian authorities: the new contract for the 'management of the Australian detention centers has been awarded to Group 4 Falck. They have taken over from Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) a subdivision of Wackenhutt corporation which has merged with Group 4 Falk in may 2002. This will undoubtedly not bring any positive changes for the persons held in the centers (and since Group 4 has put in a lower bid than the one on which the centers are currently managed they will have to cut costs somehow to maintain profits. and thus the refugees are likely to suffer even more). While ACM was active only in the Pacific area, Group 4 has operations (e.g. pioneering the privatization of prisons and immigration detention services in the UK) all over Europe. This makes it much easier to express solidarity with the detained immigrants via action in Europe...