Hunger strike against prison conditions in Melbourne detention; video footage exposes guard thuggery

| January 10, 2019 | Reply

Around 200 detainees in MITA North, the new high security compound inside the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), have begun a hunger strike in protest against the compound’s prison conditions and guard brutality. The hunger strike began on Tuesday morning (8 January), and was continuing on Wednesday night.

Ironically, the hunger strike has exposed the sleight of hand behind the government’s New Year’s Day announcement that it was closing Maribyrnong detention centre; it closed but a new high security detention compound was opened in MITA to replace it.

“The new detention centre is worse than Maribyrnong,” one of the hunger strikers told the Refugee Action Coalition. There are no chairs, no TVs in the rooms, no doors or curtain on the toilets. Detainees in MITA North are locked in their rooms between midnight and 7.00am.

There is only one communal TV that is essentially unwatchable because the only chairs available are metal stools bolted to the floor at the eating tables.

Confirming the detainee’s claims of guard brutality in MITA North, footage also emerged from MITA South of Serco guards physically abusing detainees in the mess room on Tuesday evening (see video footage). The detainee was attacked and forcibly removed from the mess room because he asked if there was sauce he could have with his meal.

There are no kettles allowed; and the hot water arrangement in the sink has not been working so there is no tea or coffee available.

One asylum seeker told the Refugee Action Coalition, “I left my country because people were mistreated just like in here. They are worse in here than in my country. The guard who you can see in the video, has punched many people, but he has never been charged. There is no law in Australia.”

The detainees protested against the daily midnight lockdowns on Tuesday night by refusing to go into their rooms. They intend to refuse to enter their rooms tonight (Wednesday) as well.

Extra guards have been mobilised on Wednesday, said to be being paid $40 an hour; money that could buy kettles or chairs.

“The conditions in MITA are inhuman. Border Force control has created militarised detention centres that are worse than prisons,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“The should be a human rights inspection of the detention centres. The government must end the lockdowns; provide chairs, allow TVs in the rooms. And guards who brutalise and bash should be charged.

“The incident in MITA South should be properly, and independently, investigated. The man taken out of the MITA South mess room was taken to a secluded area away from any mobile phone cameras or CCTV.

“There is no excuse for the detention centres. They are instruments of torture just as much as Manus and Nauru; and they are factories of mental illness. It is the people running the detention centres that are a risk to society. The detention centres should be closed.”

For more information, contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

Category: Press releases

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