No Christmas on Christmas Island vigil in Melbourne

The Refugee Action Collective held a vigil outside Myer Christmas windows to raise awareness of the plight of asylum seekers and refugees locked up as part of the Australian government's inhumane policy of mandatory detention. The tragedy on 15 December of a boatload of refugees being smashed up on the rocks at Christmas Island with at least 30 refugees drowning demonstrates the inhumanity of Australia's refugee policy. If the Australian government had honoured its agreement to take 500 refugees from Indonesia this year, this tragedy might not have happened.

Christmas may be a time of joy and holiday for some, but for asylum seekers and refugees locked up on Christmas Island and in immigration detention centres around Australia, there is no respite from the degradation and uncertainty of not knowing when you will be released, deported back to danger or if you will continue to be locked indefinitely.

There are currently 5,360 people locked in detention, of whom 856 are children. These children are deprived of education and often left without toys or means of recreation. Villawood Detention Centre denied entry of a soccer ball because it was a 'security risk.'

Instead of living like ordinary children, children in detention, like all detainees, are driven to self-harm and mental illness. We think they deserve to live like any other child.

What sort of country treats innocent people like this?

* At present over 700 refugee children are held in detention in Australia. Many are unaccompanied minors.
* Government and media doublespeak obscures their fate.
* Detainees of all kinds and ages must be brought under the protection of the law.
* Children must be released into the community as promised by successive
* governments since 2005.
* It is Labor Party policy to have no children in detention.
* There was no mandatory detention until 1992.
* Some people are detained for months, even years.
* Detention results in despair, depression, self harm, suicides.
* Long term damage includes permanent disability for some children. Professor Patrick McGorry, psychiatrist and Australian of the year describes detention centres as “factories for mental illness.”
* End mandatory detention now.