International: Refugee Activists prepare Easter action at Baxter Hell Detention Centre

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Narrogin
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130
Web: http://www.safecom.org.au/

International: Refugee Activists prepare Easter action at Baxter Hell Detention Centre

International Media Release
Thursday 10 April 2003 - 10:00 WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

  • REFUGEE ACTIVISTS PREPARE EASTER ACTION: BAXTER DETENTION CENTRE

  • CALL FOR SOLIDARITY WITH THOSE IMPRISONED FOR CLAIMING THEIR RIGHT TO SEEK ASYLUM IN AUSTRALIA

  • LABOR'S CARMEN LAWRENCE SENDS STATEMENT OF SUPPORT TO ACTIVISTS

  • MEDIA COMMENTS IN THE FOLLOWING LANGUAGES - SEE BOTTOM OF THIS EMAIL:

  • ENGLISH GERMAN DUTCH ITALIAN CHINESE INDONESIAN GREEK

Refugee groups around Australia are putting the finishing touches to their preparations to descend on the Baxter Detention facility near Port Augusta in South Australia during the Easter weekend in mid-April.

As was the case with the dramatic events during the Woomera2002 convergence during the Easter weekend, when detention centre fences collapsed resulting in a break-out of more than 50 detainees, Baxter2003 is planned as a goodwill convergence on April 18-21 by refugee activists around Australia.

Australia's hardline right-wing conservative Howard administration has in the past come under fire by US-based Human Rights Watch, UNHCR Chief Rudd Lubbers, Amnesty International and numerous human rights organisations, and psychiatrists in Australia and abroad, especially after detainees in Woomera escalated in the harsh and inhumane arid desert camp by lip-stitching, hungerstrikes, attempted suicides and more recently, a spate of fires lit by them, but reportedly also lit by their guards, Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) Staff.

WA-based refugee group Project SafeCom will be amongst those who issue media releases in conjunction with refugee activists at the South Australian detention centre during the Easter weekend.

CALL TO SOLIDARITY

Australian refugee activists call on Australians and the international community to 'show your solidarity with people imprisoned simply for applying for their lawful right to protection and asylum', according to the Baxter Convergence website at http://baxter2003.baxterwatch.net , and to show 'opposition to the blatant disregard of human rights perpetrated by the Howard government'.

NO VIOLENCE, BUT DISARMING TACTICS

There are no plans for any violent action during the convergence - on the contrary, activists from alliances from all Australian capital cities as well as rural areas, encourage attendees to bring 'a diversity of disarming, amusing, confusing, engaging, disruptive and bizarre tactics'. And further, the website states: "The only violence at Baxter is the violence of the inhuman detention of the refugees".

What will happen during the Easter weekend at Baxter, remains largely a mystery because the event is not centrally organised, but numerous 'affinity groups' and 'alliances' descend on the detention centre.

Rumour has it that a Rock Concert is organised for Easter Saturday, while kites will be flown showing the word "Freedom". An Adelaide group plans to catapult hundred of tennis balls across the fences - tennis balls filled with presents and goodwill messages ...

MANY AFFILIATED GROUPS

The various alliance groups who will come to Baxter are not just groupings of 'radical university students'. There will be a GP from Queensland, a TAFE Lecturer from New South Wales, a former Mayor from Victoria - while there is hope for an international contingent as well.

Below are statements from various people who will converge on the Baxter detention facility.

QUEENSLAND

Tim Kirchler is a refugee rights activist travelling to Baxter from Goondiwindi in Queensland. Tim, one of the town's local doctors, says of his trip, "I am appalled by the Government's treatment of those most in need of our help, so I am travelling to Baxter to voice my opposition to their policy. In Goondiwindi, we now have the beginnings of a small group of activists who are campaigning around issues concerning the Iraqi war and refugees."

NEWCASTLE NSW

Stavros - or Steve - Georgopoulos is the organiser of the Newcastle-based "HOPE Caravan". Steve explains that the "HOPE Caravan is going to Baxter to give the detainees HOPE, hope that they are not alone, that not everybody in Australia despises them and wants them imprisoned and sent abroad."

"We will fly our giant kite with the giant banner FREEDOM so that they and others will see FREEDOM blowing in the wind. On our journey to Baxter we will stop by towns on the way to inform their communities why we are going to Baxter and to tell them the truth about the detainees' situation. We did this last year when we went to Woomera and it was a great success."

MELBOURNE VIC

Fleur Taylor is a socialist and an activist with the Refugee Action Collective, Melbourne. RAC has been fighting for an end to mandatory detention for nearly three years. RAC initiated the first nationwide rallies for refugee rights in June 2001, and the first demonstrations outside Woomera in September 2001.

"Refugees locked in Australia's hellholes are resisting their oppression every single day, from acts as simple as demanding guards call them by name rather than number, up to sit-ins, hunger strikes and escapes," said Fleur.

"The Refugee Action Collective supports all such acts of resistance, and seeks to build a movement of mass civil disobedience in the cities of Australia. Baxter2003 will be important in building and inspiring such a movement.

As Australian F-18 Hornets bomb Baghdad, the hypocrisy of John Howard locking up Iraqis who've fled Saddam's regime will become evident to more people. We say, if you're anti-war, you've got to be pro-refugee."

PERTH WA

Grant van Riessen is a refugee rights activist making the journey from Perth to the Baxter detention centre at Easter. In doing so Grant seeks to undermine the policy of secrecy and isolation by challenging physical and bureaucratic barriers, and to demonstrate to the world that Baxter is intolerable to both the people it imprisons and the society it degrades. Grant expects a diversity of creative tactics to be empoyed by protestors to put Baxter in the spotlight and he urges people to take that as an opportunity to consider the violence and human rights abuses institutionalised there.

Shelley James from Fremantle says: "I have tried the helping-people-in-detention-humanitarian-approach. I have visited. It is good. But it is VERY IMPORTANT not to be compromised. If that visiting is stopping your from writing letters, protesting, ringing ACM/DIMIA managers and complaining about treatment, contacting politicians - then it is bullshit. Stop visiting - and go to Baxter and protest instead."

"I know this, because I've had to sit down and think about this decision long and hard. I am now banned from Baxter and Port Hedland. I like it that I am banned. Today I rang up and gave Baxter's ACM Manager Greg Wallace a hard time and he was rude to me. I complained to DIMIA and the Ombudsman about his behaviour. He thinks because I want to visit Baxter IDF I will just roll over and he can do his power trip on me. But it doesn't work like that. He thinks he can do to me what he does (and gets away with) with detainees. Bullshit - this is how the power of ACM/DIMIA insidiously corrupts the refugee movement. I refuse to let myself be 'treated like a detainee' to help refugees."

DR CARMEN LAWRENCE

The Perth to Baxter collective at last week's launch received a statement of support from Labor's Federal Parliamentary member Dr. Carmen Lawrence.

Dr Lawrence wrote to them: "Mandatory detention and the oppressive penal environment in which people are placed inevitably foster fear and resentment, not only in those looking out through the razor wire but for many of those looking in. It amounts to torture of those who are detained and will have lasting and damaging effects on them."

"There are better and more humane alternatives to the current system of responding to people who seek refuge here; alternatives that reflect the generous and compassionate spirit of the majority of Australians."

Dr Lawrence concluded: "Thank you for your work in drawing attention to the plight of the many people held in detention in Australia and my best wishes for your Easter campaign at Baxter."

Important websites and pages:

The Baxterwatch website:
http://www.baxterwatch.net/

The Baxter Convergence website:
http://baxter2003.baxterwatch.net/

Melbourne Independent Media Centre:
http://melbourne.indymedia.org/

Project SafeCom Baxter pages:
http://www.safecom.org/baxter.htm

Statement by Dr. Carmen Lawrence:
http://www.baxterwatch.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=68

For more information call
the people below:

COMMENTS in DUTCH, English:
Mr Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[Phone number posted]

GENERAL COMMMENTS in ITALIAN, GERMAN, English:
Americo Caponetta
[Phone number posted]

----------------------------------------------------
NOTE: All of the following people
will also be available for comments
on the ground at Baxter during
the Easter Baxter convergence:
----------------------------------------------------

COMMENTS in English:
Tim Kirchler
Rural Australians for Refugees
Goondiwindi
[Phone number posted]

COMMENTS in GREEK, English:
Stavros (Steve) Georgopoulos
HOPE Caravan
Newcastle
[Phone number posted]

COMMENTS in CHINESE, INDONESIAN, English:
Fleur Taylor
Refugee Action Collective
Melbourne
[Phone number posted]

COMMENTS in English:
Grant van Riessen
Project SafeCom Inc.
[Phone number posted]

COMMENTS in English:
Shelley James
Fremantle Refugee Support Group
[Phone number posted]

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