Politics

Protest at Yongah Hill

ELLE CAHILL (WORDS) AND KUAN JIA (PHOTOS)

August 29, 2012

More than 150 refugee advocates took part in a peaceful protest recently at Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre, east of Perth, as asylum seekers in other Australian centres prepared for their impending removal to offshore processing locations.

WA Police and Australian Federal Police officers attended the demonstration, which protester Chris Jenkins – a member of the group Resistance – said was about “educating ordinary Australians” and never intended to be violent.

“We’ve always found that [the police] almost try to rival the numbers of the protesters, even though there has never been violence,” Mr Jenkins said.

“These detention centres are deliberately built out of sight, out of mind.

“By taking people to visit these places you see that they are built as prisons with razor wire, security, electric fences, and all this for people who have committed no crime.”

Another protester Colin Penter, who runs an online civil action group called Serco Watch, said demonstrators discussed the Federal Government’s recent move toward offshore processing at Nauru as well as Serco’s management of detention centres.

Private corporation Serco is contracted to operate all of Australia’s onshore detention centres.

“To speak about the policy of mandatory detention, clearly you need to speak about the Gillard Government’s policy,” Mr Penter said.

“But you also need to focus on the fact that Serco is the corporation that implements that policy on behalf of the government.

“[Privatisation] distances the government from accountability for what happens inside detention centres.

“My view is that … if we are going to run detention centres then they should be run in the public sector.”

The immigration department had confirmed some asylum seekers on Christmas Island were refusing meals to protest their imminent removal to Nauru.

“Nothing that any of the detainee clients do will influence the path… to arranging…transfer to Nauru for processing,” a departmental communications manager tweeted on August 24.

This story was written and produced by the team at Western Independent.

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