ASIO checks destroy refugee lives
At 1am on 14 May, I received a text message informing me that another refugee had attempted suicide inside Broadmeadows detention centre, writes Benjamin Solah in Socialist Alternative. It was the third attempt this month; another stark reminder of the effect mandatory detention has on refugees.
Jasee, a Tamil refugee, tried to hang himself after viewing a Mother’s Day special on TV. It had reminded him of his mum, who died during the civil war in Sri Lanka. He was 13 at the time.
One of the asylum seekers from the Oceanic Viking in 2009, he remains in detention today even though he has been recognised as a refugee by the Department of Immigration. Like more than 55 other refugees, negative ASIO security checks condemn him to a life of indefinite detention. He is stuck in legal limbo. His refugee status and legitimate fear of torture or death if returned to Sri Lanka mean he cannot be deported. Yet the Immigration Department refuses to release refugees that have been condemned by ASIO’s secretive process of security checks.
Another whose life is being destroyed is Ranjini. She and her two children were found to be refugees and were living safely in the community until last week. They had also fled the civil war in Sri Lanka and had begun to set up a new life here. But a month after getting married to Ganesh, Ranjini and her two children are now locked up again.
Ranjini (who is now pregnant) and the two children attended what was supposed to be a routine meeting with the Immigration Department. Ganesh, who had driven his family to the appointment, was told to wait outside. He was then told by officials that his wife and her two children were being taken to Villawood detention centre. Ranjini had been given a negative security assessment. They were given 5 minutes to say goodbye.
No reason given. No right of appeal. Three lives behind razor wire again – with no prospect of release. When Ganesh went to visit Ranjini, she was too unwell to come out and see him.
These ASIO checks cannot be appealed nor are the reasons for negative assessments provided. Refugees are left in the dark about pending visas, about where family members are, and why they will never be released into Australia despite being found to be a refugee.
The recent attempted suicides are part of an epidemic of despair inside Australia’s detention centres. Attempted suicide is so common that guards are issued with knives to cut down detainees who try to hang themselves.
The fact that refugees are kept inside detention or returned after treatment following suicide attempts should make anyone who cares about basic human rights shake with anger. If someone were burnt, would you stick them back in the fire?
At last year’s Labor Party national conference, a motion was unanimously passed to implement a system whereby the ASIO security checks could be reviewed. Five months later, nothing has happened and more lives continue to be ruined.
The ASIO security checks are designed to create hysteria. The government wants us to believe that those coming to our shores to seek protection are a threat. We should be clear that refugees are the ones under threat – not just from the countries that they flee, but from our government.
The only solution is to demand a complete scrapping of these checks and to demand that refugees inside detention are released into the community.
End indefinite detention, end ASIO checks on refugees. Friday 25 May, 12.30pm. Department of Immigration, Casselden Place (cnr Lonsdale & Spring St), Melbourne. (For more information go to www.rac-vic.org)
World Refugee Day rallies to be held this year
Perth: 1pm Saturday 16 June, corner William and Hay Streets (outside Uniting Church)
Brisbane: 1pm Saturday 16 June, Brisbane Square, CBD
Canberra: 1pm Saturday 16 June, Petrie Plaza, Civic
Adelaide: 12pm Saturday 16 June, Parliament House
Melbourne: 12pm Sunday 17 June, Parliament House
Sydney: 1pm Sunday 24 June, Town Hall