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<nettime> The Invisibles...in a foreign land, in a foreign town...
Caron Eliot on Wed, 3 Jul 2002 10:58:31 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> The Invisibles...in a foreign land, in a foreign town...



[via "geert lovink" <geert {AT} xs4all.nl>]

 
SUMMARY:

20 refugees, men apprehended following the break-out from Woomera
Detention Centre last Thursday on the fourth day of their hunger strike,
are currently "at large" somewhere in the corrections services system of
South Australia. In a repeat of a situation 3 weeks ago, the staff at the
Adelaide Watchhouse, the maximum security holding cell facility next to
the Magistrates Court, have been told to expect a group of asylum seekers,
who then "disappear", apparently lost in the system of non-communication
between various vectors of authority stretching down the Stuart Highway
from Woomera to Port Augusta to Adelaide. The only certainty is the date
of their court appearance in Adelaide, which is Thursday 4 July.

REPORT:

The first day of the new financial year, and the coldest morning in
Adelaide since 1989, has also been a big day for various refugee issues.  
At 8.30am the Adelaide round of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission's National Enquiry into Children in Immigration Detention
commenced in Meeting Room B of the Hilton International, with evidence
relating to nine submissions being presented. All presentations were
public, excepting one by an ex-counsellor from Woomera, which was held "in
camera". (Every witness can choose to make their submission in a closed
setting, or HREOC can recommend this if there is a lot of detailed
evidence naming detainees, or employees of DIMIA or ACM or other
authorities).

The Head Commissioner, Mr Sey Ozdowski, seemed really cool with wise and
compassionate court cred. He has a graceful way of elicting pertinent
information from witnesses, who drew upon their first-hand experiences and
areas of professional expertise to contribute to the macro and micro
pictures of conditions in the Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing
Centre. Of particular interest to the Commission is an understanding of
the range and depth of potential harmful effects of these material
circumstances on the intellectual, physical, social and emotional
development of children in detention. Mr Ozdowski told me that he and his
team had been in the middle of their 3 day field visit to Woomera when the
break-out occurred. Despite copping some of the blame for the escape, they
fortunately still managed to interview all detained families who have
children. Mr Ozdowski said that the prevailing mood is "very despairing."
Following tomorrow's hearings I will post a summary of submissions.

In the evening of 1 July a meeting of various refugee groups and networks
was convened at the Pilgrim Church by South Australians For Justice for
Refugees. The focus of the meeting was to decide upon specific strategic
demands and supportive actions to be made rapidly in response to the
escalating crisis of the hunger strike, now in its eighth day. Given that
DIMIA and/or ACM have disconnected the 3 mobile phones which have been the
only direct link to the refugees in Woomera, and that lawyers have been
denied access to their clients for the past few days, it is next to
impossible to have a feeling for what is happening inside the centre right
now.

Watch this space for announcements of the actions -- some will start very
soon. There is news just to hand of actions planned by groups in other
states. And a report that Arabunna Elder, Kevin Buzzacott, has made a
special visit to Port Augusta to put the word out that refugees are
welcome in his country.

The final thing to report on tonight is the mysterious disappearance of 20
refugees. The men, apprehended over the past few days following the
break-out from Woomera Detention Centre last Thursday, are currently "at
large" somewhere in the corrections services system of South Australia.  
People already dehumanised by the system of mandatory detention are now
being reduced to the class of "the invisibles", in the system of Power and
Politics being played out.

In a repeat of a similar situation 3 weeks ago, the staff at the Adelaide
Watchhouse, a maximum security holding cell facility next to the
Magistrates Court, had been told (by DIMIA?) to expect the refugees at
7.30pm. When I visited the Watchhouse at 9.30pm the men still hadn't
turned up, apparently lost in the system of non-communication between
various vectors of authority. In fact the sergeant on duty asked me to let
them know if I found anything out.

A phone call to a very disinterested and unhelpful Phil Easterbrook, Shift
Manager at Woomera (08-8673-7007), yielded the information that he didn't
have a clue and that they (ACM presumably) were always the last to know
anything about the detainees. I then contacted the Port Augusta gaol
(08-8648-5400) and spoke to Colin Grantham, the Officer-in-Charge, who was
friendly enough but told me he couldn't give me any information and that I
would need to wait till 9am to speak with the Manager, Steve Simmonds. He
said that he wouldn't be able to give the Watchhouse staff any info
either. Strange. He did at least tell me that the men were very much
alive.

I returned to the Watchhouse (conveniently located round the corner from
my home) and had a yarn with that mob. Luckily the *good cop* was on duty.
We talked about the fact that the men might still be on a hunger strike,
and that they were quite possibly suffering from depression. He explained
that they don't have medical staff in the Watchhouse but that after people
are checked in they are examined by a locum. And if people require medical
assistance during their confinement they will receive it. If anyone wants
to send a message of support to the refugees please email me.

The only certainty is the date of their court appearance in Adelaide,
which is Thursday 4 July.


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