Mass Tamil asylum seeker protest hits Christmas island

Media Release January 28, 2010

In scenes reminiscent of the early protests that rocked Woomera, Port Hedland and Baxter, under the Howard government, a mass protest by Tamil detainees at Christmas Island began at 4.30pm Christmas Island time, on Thursday, 27 January.

The protest is supported by all the Tamils detainees but, “We are hopeful that the Kurdish, Iranians and Arabs people will join us,” a Christmas Island detainee told the Refugee Action Coalition.

At 4.30 around 60 asylum seekers began marching around the path inside the detention with placards saying, “How Long Do we have to wait’, “Oceanic Viking 6 weeks, Christmas Island 6 months”, and “Protection Not Detention.”

The protest coincides wit h the visit to the island by Senator Fielding and Opposition spokesperson on immigration, Scott Morrison.

“People are sick and tired of waiting so long for their the applications to be processed. There are scores of Tamils now who have been waiting for six months and much longer. The government has no explanation for why Tamil asylum seekers are having to wait so long. As their placard says, processing on the Oceanic Viking was done in six weeks, ” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“They are also angry at the people being charged for last year’s so-called riot and being put into the Red Compound management units.

“Australian of the year, Professor Patrick McGorry, was right when he called detention centres ‘factories for mental illness’ Perhaps Julia Gillard and Chris Evans will face up to the fact that Christmas Island is just as much a mental illness factory as Woomera or Baxter.

“There is no adequate torture and trauma counseling available and medication of the detainees is increasing. A government with a humane policy towards asylum seekers would close Christmas Island,” said Ian Rintoul.

There will be more protests in the days ahead. The detainees said they will maintain their protest “until we get answers.”

The protest also comes after detainees were told that under a new rule, management would no longer allow detainees to have mobile phones. Detainees in mainland detention centres are allowed to have mobile phones, and Christmas Island detainees have been allowed to have phones for months.

Meanwhile, it is expected that the two Australian refugee activists detained by Indonesian immigration authorities will return to Australian on Saturday morning. Tamil community activist, Sara Nathan will arrive in Sydney (Flight QF 042) at 7.40am. She will be available for media comment/interview at the airport.

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

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