The following statement was released on July 22 by refugees, mainly Hazaras from Afghanistan, locked up in the Scherger detention centre in north Queensland. 67 refugees were on hunger strike at that stage. I am reprinting this from www.greenleft.org.au. I'm not sure if the hunger strike continues, but the message is important.
On a more Darwin-related note, last week Hazara refugees locked up in the detention centre on the Stuart Highway also staged a hunger strike, and rooftop protest, in an attempt to draw attention to their lengthy imprisonment and related suffering.
The detention centre is on my way to work. Each morning I would see if they were still up there, and sometimes (not often enough!) a few of us would drop by on our way home, have a shouted conversation through the fence, over the noise of the traffic. It was so hot that week, and there was no shade on the roof. They stayed up there for four days.
In the Name of Merciful God,
This hunger strike is a response to the continued pressure exercised by the Australian Immigration Department on us.
The participants in this hunger strike have been denied protection and robbed of their liberty for periods of time extending to over a year, even up to 20 months.
This punitive action and arbitrary jailing, has destroyed our physical and mental health.
Our families — including our children — living outside detention and overseas have suffered additionally from the terror of the Taliban, and the tyrannies of other dictators and regimes.
Daily sadness and additional trauma that we are exposed to remains unknown to certain officers and Immigration Merit Review members.
These members are neglecting our claims, the reasons for our claims, the arguments that we have supplied, and the documents available to them. They have consequently failed to reach a comprehensive humane and just decision.
We are locked in a “no man’s land”, inside a military base where average people and the media have no access to us.
Our friends and relatives cannot reach us and we have to accept the blame of officials, and the suggestion that “you are not looking after your case”.
Our treatment in this way is very hideous and painful. They are melting us in a bureaucratic oven, and pushing us through cracks in the law. All the while, money-makers are making their money and we have to suffer indefinitely and infinite trauma.
We have to suffer for such a long time, because you want to send messages to the opportunistic smugglers. You have punished us more than enough and the smugglers will have received your messages. Be happy.