Detainees strengthened, encouraged, and offering love to protesters, but outraged at media reporting

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Detainees strengthened, encouraged, and offering love to protesters, but outraged at media reporting

More contact numbers on location in Baxter below ....

Media Release
Monday 21 April 2003 - 23:30 WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes


Contrary to widespread reporting about detainees in the Baxter detention centre being 'unaware' or 'not interested' in the protesters, they have reported to be greatly appreciative of the Easter protests which took place during last weekend.

Several messages have been relayed which clearly state how encouraged they have felt - even while there was no eye-to-eye contact possible because the design of the Baxter centre has deliberately set out to prevent visual contact between detainees and the outside world.

Project SafeCom as well as other refugee advocates deplore the biased reporting of some of Australia's mainstream newspapers, especially when it is reported to us that "one of Australia's main daily newspapers' editors instructed their journalist(s) to refrain from reporting "any - reportedly labelled 'hardcore' - sympathetic stories from detainees on the inside of the electric fence" and that they concentrate on "violence occurring" during the Baxter Easter protests.

Project SafeCom at the same time is fully committed to accurate reporting, and it joins with Australian and international journalists of reputable standards and practices in their outrage over the banning of free and unfettered access by journalists into Australian detention centres under the hardline and inhumane policies of the Howard government.

Project SafeCom also deplores the manipulative statements made during the Easter weekend by DIMIA and the Hon Philip Ruddock during a press conference about the [almost complete lack of] impact of the protests on detainees inside the Baxter detention centre.


One of the protesters, Julie Squires, summarised:

"Asylum seekers inside Baxter Detention Centre are outraged and upset at media reports that they did not want refugee supporters to come to the detention centre over the Easter long weekend. They were also surprised at reports "that life inside the centre continued "as normal" over the weekend and that they were oblivious to and uninterested in the Baxter Convergence"."


"Contrary to claims by DIMIA, ACM and the police that supporters came to the area to help asylum-seekers escape, refugee activists came with a very clear agenda of showing support to the people inside the centre by a variety of peaceful means such as flying kites, releasing balloons and having their cries for "AZADI" (freedom) heard by their friends inside."

Another refugee advocate, Jane O'Reilly, reports that the plans of a 3-year old child who was preparing to fly a kite - presumably with adult help - in order for the protesters to see this kite from the outside, was blocked in this attempt because part of the material to prepare to fly this kite was confiscated by ACM/DIMIA staff.


"Asylum-seekers confirmed that they were able to hear the chants of the protestors during each one of the gatherings outside the centre and were very moved by them. Because they were kept in "lock-down" conditions all weekend, they were not able to make direct contact with their supporters. Phone contact into and out of the centre were cut and large numbers of guards were stationed in each compound."


"When they attempted to echo back the supporters' chants of "AZADI" on Saturday afternoon, large numbers of guards from ACM (Australasian Correctional Management) forced them back into their individual rooms and guards were stationed at the door of each room. They were further isolated from supporters and from each other."


"When one group of asylum-seekers staged a protest of their own in one of the compounds against their continued incarceration, force was used to return them to their rooms, and three asylum-seekers were subsequently put into the "Management Unit" (solitary confinement)."


"Even though no escape attempt was carried out by the detainees or by their supporters, the detainees were subjected to continuous room searches and harassment by guards. The room searches continue up until this moment. Such is the perceived danger of friendship and solidarity."


"The asylum seekers wish to express their gratitude to supporters, many of whom they said travelled very long distances to be at the convergence. They were very distressed to hear that supporters were endangered by mounted police charges and many lost vital items such as tents and sleeping bags at the beginning of the weekend. They were aware that some very young children were among the group."


"Asylum seekers said: "Thank you for your attention and compassion and sympathy. We kiss you from inside the centre and we hope one day we can repay your help. Thanks a lot for your coming and your help. We never forget you. We love you, good luck, Happy Easter. -from Baxter detainees."

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Julie Squires
Refugee advocate
NSW Highlands
[phone number posted]

Pamela Curr
National Spokesperson for the Greens
[phone number posted]

Jane O'Reilly
Refugee advocate
[phone number posted]

Important websites and pages:

The Baxterwatch website:

The Baxter Convergence website:

Melbourne Independent Media Centre:

Project SafeCom Baxter pages:

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