Chained activist protests indefinite detention of asylum seekers

AUDREY COURTY

Refugee activist Fay Waddington performs five-hour vigil outside Immigration office.  Image: Audrey Courty

Refugee activist Fay Waddington performs five-hour vigil outside Immigration office.
Photo: Audrey Courty

A refugee rights advocate chained herself to a post outside the Immigration department in Brisbane today, condemning the indefinite detention of asylum seekers at the Curtin and Villawood centres.

Refugee Action Collective campaigner Fay Waddington, 64, remained shackled for five hours to draw focus on the five-year detention of asylum seeker Anton Waranakulsuriya.

She said the 34-year-old Sinhalese man is currently held at the Curtin detention centre without charge and is suffering from mental health problems.

“An injustice to one person is an injustice to everybody,” Ms Waddington said.

“And when you know there’s an injustice, I see silence as being complicit.”

Immigration Department figures revealed earlier this year that the average time asylum seekers spend in detention has doubled since the Abbott government took office.

Ms Waddington argued it is “hypocritical” that the Government spends billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to maintain the detention centre network, all while urging Australians to make fiscal sacrifices for the 2014 budget.

RAC campaigners raise placards in support of refugee rights. Image: Audrey Courty

RAC campaigners raise placards in support of refugee rights. Photo: Audrey Courty

“Even if some [Australians] don’t have any empathy for asylum seekers…they should care about the fact that it is costing us a fortune to treat these people so inhumanely,” Ms Waddington said.

“You could treat them humanely for less than a quarter of that sum…and it would be a win-win situation.

We’d have all this spare money to help balance the budget and then processed refugees could work in rural areas where there is a desperate shortage of people.”

Refugee advocates say the indefinite detention of asylum seekers for years on end is a form of “psychological torture”.

Mr Waranakulsuriya is one of 11 detainees at Curtin who undertook a hunger strike last month as a peaceful protest.

A source close to one of the asylum seekers held at Villawood said detainees risk severe ramifications for protesting or talking to the media.

“There isn’t any freedom in Australia, not only for the people in detention, but also for the people who think they are free,” the source said.

“I am a free person but I do not have the freedom to tell stories [about the detention centres].”

The Source contacted the Department of Immigration and Border Protection about today’s protest but they declined to comment.

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