UPDATE (AUSTRALIA) : Asylum seekers have accused government of hiding the truth; hunger strike continues


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-08-2001
ISSUES: Right to food,

Dear Friends, 

We’re sending you following update regarding twenty-two detainees who were arrested and on hunger strike at Port Hedland in Australia. 

Asylum seekers have accused Australian government of hiding the truth and insisted that they are being kept incommunicado. Meanwhile, around 130 people are still on hunger strike. 

We will send you further updates if any to draw your attention and for solidarity action. 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Desk 
Asian Human Rights Commission 


A statement signed by more than 150 asylum seekers in Australia’s Port Hedland detention centre has called on the government to tell the truth about the protests at Port Hedland. 

“Why has only a part of the video tape of the protests been shown on television?” they ask in the statement. “The government is hiding the truth.” They call for a thorough investigation of the events at Port Hedland, rather than a trial by the release of selective video tape. “Why don’t they show the tape of what ACM did to us?” they ask. ACM is the company running the detention centre, which is a private facility, on contract to the government. 

The statement also calls for the dropping of the charges against the 22 arrested in police raids last Saturday. “They are innocent”, the statement says. 

The statement confirms that the trouble began over the strike in the kitchen and an attack by ACM guards on two teenage boys: “If you want the truth, it was ACM that lit the match at Port Hedland.” According to the statement, ACM provoked events by starting the engine on the water cannon, and dressed in riot gear attacked groups of detainees. “We stood with women and children in the middle, to protect them from the batons of ACM,” they say. 

The statement continues, “The ACM is creating hatred in the detention centres. They humiliate us, they discriminate against us. They put us in chains.” 

“What have we done?” they ask. “We are human beings, with feelings. What have we done to this country to be treated this way? We faced persecution and distress and came seeking protection. But we do not get protection, but more stress and punishment.” Conditions in Port Hedland are at breaking point they say. In a phone conversation, one detainee said, “The police and ACM act like Nazis. We have never seen anything like it, even in Iran or Afghanistan.” 

The statement ends with a call to the courts to recognise the innocence of those charged. 

Meanwhile the hunger strike at Port Hedland continues. In a move that threatens to inflame the situation, another 15 people have been singled out by police for their participation in the protests. Around 130 people are still on hunger strike protest. Detainees have rejected the suggestion by immigration minister Philip Ruddock that children are being coerced to join the hunger strike. 

“Families have been placed in desperate circumstances by the minister, and feel they are left with no choice. They want to stay and fight this together. It is the minister who has divided families here,” one detainee told the Refugee Action Collective in Sydney. 

“The government is hiding the truth in more ways than one,” said Ian Rintoul, from the Refugee Action Collective in Sydney. “If minister Ruddock wants the truth to be known about what’s happening at Port Hedland, why are the detainees being kept incommunicado?” 

Protests are expected in Port Hedland and other detention centres to co-incide with the national day of action which will see major rallies in all capital cities this Sunday, 3 June. 

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AHRC Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission 
Unit D, 7th Floor, Mongkok Commercial Centre, 
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Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 
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Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-08-2001
Countries : Asia,
Issues : Right to food,