April 08, 2013
Asylum seekers branded threats to national security are asking the government to release them from detention or kill them.
The 28 asylum seekers – 25 Tamils, two Burmese Rohingyas and one Iranian – at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation in Broadmeadows began a hunger strike in the early hours of Monday morning.
In a letter released via refugee advocates at the Tamil Refugee Council, they said they planned to continue to starve themselves until ”there is solution, one way or the other”.
”If the Australian government does not release us, we ask that they kill us mercifully,” they said.
”We have painted banners as part of our protest. There is one that shows many people hanging. That is what we want to happen to us if we are not released.”
The group said that asylum seekers at the MITA were already attempting suicide. ”It is a cruel and inhumane environment for everyone.”
Most of the asylum seekers have been in detention for two to three years following adverse security assessments from ASIO. They are among 56 in Australia that have been deemed threats to national security without the ability to challenge ASIO’s decisions. Most have never been given reasons for the assessments.
The protest was sparked by a visit from the person who will independently review these security assessments. Former Federal Court Justice Margaret Stone visited the MITA in Melbourne and Sydney’s Villawood detention centre last week for the first time since she was appointed by former Commonwealth attorney-general Nicola Roxon in November.
She told the group that they would receive ASIO’s reasons for their assessments by the end of April, and that she could not guarantee a timeframe for their reviews.
Ms Stone also confirmed that her recommendations could be disregarded by ASIO, with the final decision about their futures resting with Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, QC, Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor and ASIO.
The group believed this confirmed their fears that they would be kept in indefinite detention despite the process and decided to start a hunger strike after the meeting.
They appealed to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and ASIO director-general of security David Irvine to ”stop this torture of all of us”.
”We are willing to be released into the community under strict orders if they think we are threats, which we aren’t,” they said in the letter.
”But whatever they want we will do. But we can’t keep living like this. We are not in detention. We are in a cemetery.”
Comment is being sought from the Immigration Minister and the Attorney-General