Report on the situation in woomera
Compiled by activists from the freedom bus tour
23.Jan.02 - There's a core group of 13 people on the bus; 3 people got off in Adelaide, 3 new people got on to travel with us to Woomera. This detention centre or concentration camp wich is the only thing that the Woomera detention centre can be called was to prove impossible to get into. This place has different laws apply to it as it is to be found not only on Commonwealth Land as most of the other centres are but this one also comes under the Dept of Defence so to get access to the land that the centre is on you have to have permission from the Dept of Defence, also one needs permission from Australasian Correctional Management.
We have visited Villawood detention centre and had access to the detainees, we have visited Marybyrnong, and had access to the detainees, and then we tried to visit Woomera, NO ACCESS. Total Lock-Down. Only Legal representatives allowed access, wich can change at any time, one Catholic priest and one Catholic nun that can run a church service once a week. Loving kind people who choose to stay silent as to be able to keep access to the detainees. Any one that works for ACM or the Dept. of Immigration has to sign a life long contract of silence. ACM can and does change the access rules at whim. ACM can and did refuse access to the Red Cross in our presence. Acm has the power to cancel solicitors access to their clients. ACM can and does stop the Red Cross from going into Woomera detention centre where there are at present around 800 detainees 250 of those being young children 52 of those being children between the ages of 9 and 16 who are unaccompanied by any adult. these children live 15 to a dorm, sometimes brothers and sisters being separated, which leads to huge trauma for the eldest child who feels wholly responsible for the safety of their younger sibling. These are the things that mainstream media doesnt hear about as all media releases come from the Dept of Immigration. There is no press access to Woomera, so all that they can print is what they receive from the Dept. We are bearing witness to the crimes that are being committed onto mainly innocent women and children whose only crime is to come from a culture that is foreing to our own, whose homeland has been systematically destroyed for the past 20 years. Most of these people would never have considered abandoning their land, their families, their culture, familiar sights and smells where it not for the brutalities being carried out against them in their homelands. Whenever one people invade another there is always displacement of population. This is what the World is experiencing, and Australia like the rest of the World has to address this issue. All other western countries have a short detention period of around 6 weeks, while the proper checks are made, after this the refugees are processed and placed within the communities where full support can be given by many organisations. In Australia we detain them indefinetly. Just recently a Chinese family was released from Port Headland after being the longest detainees, 5 years in detention. Two young children one born in detention. LOCK-DOWN. . . what does this mean?. . . No phone calls, no letters, no visitors, no contact.
WOOMERA. . . . 175 kilometres from nowhere, 40-45 degrees heat. No trees, no shade. Woomera, the largest detention centre in Australia. ACM guards are rotated on a six-week basis. Conditions are hard on them aswell. Most of the guards don't live at Woomera, so the town remains partially a ghost town. A sticker from Woomera proclaims: "WOOMERA. THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN AUSTRALIA. " . . . uhmmm. . .
We arrived at Woomera after 3 days of consulting with Woomera detainees, lawyers, church organisations, community groups. We had been adviced to delay our presence at the gates of the detention centre by a team of solicitors that are working to assist the detainees with their cases. They had access to the detainees at that weekend, and they adviced us, that our presence would jeopardise their visiting rights. We arrived at Woomera on Monday and decided to hold an all-night vigil in solidarity with the people inside.
The news that reached us earlier that day, about the young Vietnamese student who tragically took her life at Villawood Migrants detention centre was a further catalyst for us to maintain the vigil. We could hear the voices of the detainees, even though ACM tried to drown their voices by playing loud music through their PA system. We flew kytes and helium balloons as high as we could, intersected with glow sticks, creating a magical sight in an otherwise hostile drab environment. We found out the next day, that the people inside had seen them, and they thanked us for our presence. We could hear the people inside screaming, some of their callings pleading for help could be heard through the night. There is nothing more inpotent than being present to this and not being able to do anything about it. The next morning the ACM guard returned the kyte that had flown free through the desert sky. It was 2 days before we heard that 51 one people inside Woomera had sewn their lips together. We have arrived at Perth yesterday. Today we joined local refugee activists at Perth detention centre, to protest at the conditions in the centres. Perth detention centre, another ACM run facility, is designed to keep people in the lock-up for 24 hours. Some refugees have been in the lock-up from anything up to 3 years. For the first time we were greeted by all the mainstream media who showed an interest in the FREEDOM bus' journey.
The journey continues. . .