In Australia, a transit camp to nowhere means …

In Australia, refugee and asylum seeker prisoners at the Broadmeadows detention centre are on hunger strike. Except that Broadmeadows is not formally a detention centre. It’s actually the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation. And the only part of that title that in any way approximates the truth is Melbourne. For the prisoners on hunger strike, there is no immigration, there is no transit, and there is absolutely no accommodation. There is indefinite detention in a no man’s and no woman’s land. Sometimes silence = death. At other times, language = death. This is one of those latter times.

The hunger strikers have all been deemed acceptable for refugee and asylum status. But they have been deemed, by the ASIO, security risks and so cannot be released. They can’t stay; they can’t go. Samuel Beckett seems to rule Australian jurisprudence, except, as is so often the case, this Samuel Beckett has no mercy, no sense of irony, and less than no sense of justice. Once again, the theater of the absurd gives way to the theater of atrocity.

The ASIO is the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and it claims its “role is to identify and investigate threats to security, wherever they arise, and to provide advice to protect Australia, its people and its interests…. Security is defined in the ASIO Act as espionage, serious threats to Australia’s territorial and border integrity, sabotage, politically motivated violence, the promotion of communal violence, attacks on Australia’s defence system, and acts of foreign interference.”

So, the ASIO `evaluated’ the asylum seekers, who had been deemed legitimate asylum seekers, and found them suspect. On what grounds? More often than not, on little to no grounds: “One Sri Lankan refugee was assessed negative because he ran a shop where Tamil Tigers were alleged to have done business. Another is claimed to have trained with the Tigers — he insists he was at university at the time and can prove so through enrolment and attendance records.” Of course, the actual evaluations are unavailable, even to the applicants or their attorneys. For `security reasons.’

And so, 25 `indefinitely detained refugees’ entered the fifth day of a hunger strike today, at Broadmeadows. The sad, and ironic, truth is that Broadmeadows is the tip of the iceberg, as the refugees well know. They are constantly threatened with removal to Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Facility, where conditions are, incredibly, infinitely and brutally worse.

For some, the fact that these facilities are private, run by Serco, is the key point. For me, it’s the State that contracts Serco to run these facilities that must be interrogated. What is the name of the public policy, and the order of justice, that imprisons indefinitely and without charge legitimate asylum seekers? Where is the language for that atrocity, and who will finally speak its truth, not in civil society but at the level of State?


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About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.