Refugee advocates blame Howard government for Baxter Fires

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

Refugee advocates blame Howard government for Baxter Fires

Joint Media Release
Sunday Dec 29, 18:00 WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

Refugee Action Groups and advocates around Australia point the finger squarely at the Howard government for this weekend's fire incidents at the Baxter detention centre.

Jack H Smit of Project SafeCom Inc, an advocacy group in Western Australia, expressed support for the lighting of the fires.

"Baxter is a detention centre, and more than all other detention centres around Australia, it makes a mockery of the UN Refugee Convention, the International Convention for the Rights of the Child, and other international conventions Australia has signed.

Baxter is designed as a Howard government fortress and as a maximum security prison, and it inflicts permanent damage to the psyche of children as well as adults.

I'm delighted that it's burning", Mr Smit said, "and I hope it burns right to the ground. The detainees are giving us a glimpse of things to come, when the policies of atrocities, the current government is steeped in, come to a permanent end.

This government's rhetoric of denial and dismissal of reports by International Human Rights organisations, Australian psychiatrists, medical experts, lawyers and human rights organisations is again reinforced by the impoverished response to today's events by A/Immigration Minister Daryl Williams, Mr Smit said. "All Daryl Williams can come up with is the rotten stale bread of threats of the Law and Order kind - and it's as inappropriate as it is missing the point detainees are making."

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Peter Wilkie, member of the Refugee Rights Action Network in Perth, said he was not surprised about the fires.

"The Government designed Baxter as the ultimate detention centre, designed to run people's spirits into the ground. With the government involved in refined forms of psychological torture of people inside a hidden-away detention centre, it should be no surprise that the response of detainees is to burn the place down to the ground." Mr Wilkie called for the dismantling of Baxter and all other detention centres.

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Phil Griffiths of the Canberra Refugee Action Committee, said: "It's inevitable, that these incidents take place in such an appalling solution of indefinite detention. I would be more surprised and concerned if detainees did not respond to such a situation."

Mr Griffiths, within the context of today's events, also called Labor's detention policy bankrupt. "Labor was quick to promise a limited detention of 90 days, but I'm still waiting for their response to the policy of indefiniite detention of the Howard government. In not taking a fierce stance of opposition against the current atrocities and calling for the immediate dismantling of the current policies of indefinite detention of asylum seekers, they show themselves up as a totally bankrupt alternative government".

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Pamela Curr, Immigration spokesperson for the Victorian Greens, called for an immediate inquiry into the Baxter Detention Centre. Ms Green also was not surprised about the current crisis at Baxter. "The current policy of containment and isolation of detainees, men, women as well as the young, is clearly not working", she said.

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Ms Carlee Rundell-Gordon, a nurse and Baxter visitor from NSW, found it unbelievable that SA Premier Mike Rann called for the deportation of those responsible for the fire. "Mr Rann knows well that there were concerns about the centre, and this was just an incident waiting to happen. It seems that Mr Rann has turned like a leaf in his condemnation of Baxter", she said.

"During the first fire on Saturday night the fire hydrants were not used by ACM. There has never been a fire drill at the Baxter centre.

There is no sprinkler system inside Baxter, and there is a concerning lack of emergency exits in various locations inside the centre", she said.

During a recent visit to Baxter, in which Ms Rundell-Gordon also had concerns about a possible medical emergency of a detainee she befriended, she noticed with concern an emergency exit door, which was bolted shut.

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Americo, a Melbourne-based refugee advocate, added to Ms Rundell-Gordon's concerns. "The fires could have have ended in a tragedy. The Baxter facility was criticised by many groups and individuals who have inspected or visited the centre as inadequate, even dangerous, health & safety wise. Baxter is a modern day concentration camp where people are suffering psychological torture. It just highlights once again why the camps must be closed."

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Kate Gauthier, a refugee advocate and Baxter visitor from Sydney, expressed great concern about the welfare of the children at Baxter. Ms Gautier said: "A number of adult men were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. What damage has been done to the lungs of the children, who have not been taken out? What care has been taken for a 3-month old baby, a resident of the Baxter facility, when ACM yesterday refused to evacuate this child?"

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Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
Narrogin WA
[phone contact inserted here]

Peter Wilkie
Refugee Rights Action Network
Perth WA
[phone contact inserted here]

Phil Griffiths
Refugee Action Committee
Canberra ACT
[phone contact inserted here]

Ms Pamela Curr
Immigration spokesperson for the Victorian Greens
Melbourne
[phone contact inserted here]

Ms Carlee Rundell-Gordon
Nurse and Baxter visitor
New South Wales
[phone contact inserted here]

Americo
Refugee Advocate
Melbourne
[phone contact inserted here]

Kate Gauthier
Refugee Advocate and Baxter visitor
[phone contact inserted here]

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