SOS for refugees - Vigil at Broadmeadows gives hope to those detained

About 50 people attended a peaceful vigil in solidarity with refugees, held outside the immigration detention centre on Camp Road, Broadmeadows in Melbourne's northern suburbs on Wednesday evening, January 18, 2012.

Concern for Iranian refugees on hunger strike in Broadmeadows Detention Centre | Photos from Refugee actions at Broadmeadows Detention Centre

The protest was called by the Refugee Action Collective of Victoria with less than 2 days notice as two refugees inside are on hunger strike. One Iranian man, aged 33 has been on a hunger strike for 9 days after his second rejection. He has been detained for 16 months. A second Iranian man 32, was given refugee status five months ago and is awaiting security clearance. Both men have not received proper medical assistance.

“I have been visiting this guy for months and when I was there on a visit on Tuesday night they were bringing him back from hospital. He looked like a different man, could barely walk or speak. He went to his room and doesn’t come out,” said Jenell Quinsee, RAC member and regular visitor of the detention centre, of the refugee on his 9th day refusing food.

There was a substantial police presence in front of the main gate, and in the surrounding area including the dog squad.

The protest was peaceful with speakers, music and chants of "Freedom", "Azadi". Hundreds of helium filled balloons raised a banner above the crowd and flew across the gate, before first catching on a fence, and then the balloons getting snagged in a tree.

Candles were lit spelling out "SOS" for the refugees detained inside.

One of the Iranian inmates telephoned out and thanked the crowd for their support - knowing we were outside gives encouragement and energy to the refugees detained inside.

2012 marks the 20th anniversary since the introduction of mandatory detention in Australia.

According to RAC, Ali Abbas, a Bedouin refugee from Kuwait, will have his plea for freedom heard on Monday morning 23 January in front of the Federal court. Currently 18-years-old, he arrived in Australia when he was 16, and despite his refugee status being recognised, he remains in detention because ASIO have deemed him an “adverse security risk” without having to provide the reasons for this assessment.

Abbas, like more than 50 other refugees, remain stuck in detention, not able to be deported back to the countries they fled from because they are refugees and have fled persecution or death, but they cannot be released for reasons ASIO won’t tell us.

"How a person such as Ali, who arrived here a minor, is a security threat is beyond comprehension to anyone with a compassionate bone in their body." says the RAC media release for Monday's court hearing.

3 more detainees inside Broadmeadows Detention Centre have now joined a hunger strike, bringing the number to 5.

“This is the desperation refugees have to go to to be heard. They feel like they are being ignored. Some are still waiting, sometimes over a year, for security checks. They are incredibly frustrated. If they’re accepted as a refugee but ASIO rejects them, they can be locked inside indefinitely.” said Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) spokesperson Benjamin Solah in a media release.