My name is Patrick, and I am not a Liberal voter and never will be.
I have been known to have many a heated argument, defending policies with friends, family and strangers.
I wanted to raise with you some issues which have recently become apparent within MITA, the Melbourne detention facility, at the hands of Serco.
As a regular visitor to the Broadmeadows Detention facility, I find it heartbreaking to hear of the constant denial of the basic human rights and common dignities afforded to the detainees.
This nation has been built on the blood sweat and hardworking backs of immigrants. We have all grown up with people from other countries surrounding us, either in our schools or our communities.
It is what makes Australia such an amazing and unique place to live. Until recently, we have been an envy of other countries all around the world. When travelling, I have always been proud to tell strangers that I was Australian.
This has ended now. I am now vocally ashamed to be Australian. When did our values as a country change so drastically?
We have essentially turned our back on the very piece of international law that has built our country into the great power it is, the UN Convention of Refugees, 1952. The piece of legislation that saw so many of our Italian, Greek, Maltese, German, Polish and many other nationalities settle here after World War 2, and has assisted so many other people to settle here when their countries were being ravaged by wars, famine, terror and disaster.
Friends of mine who travel now tell people they are from New Zealand, as it has become too shameful to admit that they are from a land who does not respect people from other lands or with other beliefs.
I currently visit the Broadmeadows Detention Facility (MITA) specifically to spend time with the ASIO negatively assessed Tamil men. These men have been held in detention without charge (at least, none they have been informed of) for five or six years, and in some cases, longer than six years. This is at the same time as we have Domestic Violence Perpetrators serving 3 month suspended sentences. Drink Drivers serving 2 years but being released on good behaviour, and rapists being released on parole, often reoffending, as seen in the Jill Meagher case.
In recent months I have been listening to many in the media and even politics complaining that Indonesia has breached International Law by executing the two men, but there has not been any mention that our current government do the same every single day, leaving people in detention for over six years without charge.
In recent months, at the hands of Serco, I have heard of basic rights being stripped from these people, with the worst being the right to religious freedoms, and being denied weekly visits to temple. Originally this was due to be completely removed, however after many visitors voiced our disgust at these plans, it has now been offered fortnightly instead of weekly. Even this is a rather low ‘kick in the guts’, as many of these people are already broken and hurting, and now have their only avenue to be heard by their maker denied to them.
Other restrictions that have been put in place over the past few months are to have journeys to the market to purchase ingredients to cook meals with reduced, home visits to friends and family in the community restricted and reduced (all people must be vetoed by Serco, or the visit is cancelled), and most recently, restrictions on visits from members of the community. These visit restrictions are the harshest yet, and I believe are even stricter than a maximum security prison. These include calling between 9am and 1pm the day before and booking a place (which is often already ‘booked out’ – yet upon arrival, we have noted only 8-10 people in a 60 person room), paperwork must be filled out each and every visit, we cannot mix with others in the visitors room and must remain seated. all visits are limited to 2 hours, as all visits are given a time-slot. if you are late, or the paperwork delays your entry, your visit will be shorter.
Previously, we could arrive within visiting hours, produce ID, and enter the room. All detainees were welcome to enter, and did not need to be requested. For many, it was the highlight of their day to be able to mix with the community and to forget about their hardships for a few hours over a cup of tea as we chatted. This also allowed new arrivals from Nauru or other mainland centres to mingle, meet and socialise, giving them some much-needed human contact, friendly smiles and a hug when required. I have seen many people progress from a tightened ball of no-confidence into a happy, outgoing and smiling individual in a matter of months. It gave them hope to keep going, the strength to push forward, integrate into the visitors centre and even meet other detainees from different cultures and form friendships.
This new system has effectively ended this small glimmer of joy in their lives, and for no benefit to anyone, including Serco. The mental health ramifications will soon begin to show, and I have grave concerns for many people there. New arrivals from Nauru are now reportedly kept under guard, not even allowed to mingle with other detainees, let alone visitors. We cannot visit them, as no one can get their names to nominate them.
This effectively makes Nauru into a sick version of a Big Brother house. They are totally isolated from the outside world, monitored in every way, and if removed from the BigBrother house for medical reasons, are kept guarded, so as not to ‘ruin the game’.
further to the dehumanisation of these innocent persons, Serco have now, on top of monthly room searches, in which all of their belongings are inspected, upturned, mattress flipped etc (much like a prison cell inspection), they have now added full body pat-downs to each detainee.
This includes all Men, Women and Children (I have yet to hear of how young is too young, but I have heard of 6-8 year olds being subjected to this)
I have just been informed that one single woman had her room upturned by three male guards, then was given a pat-down by a male guard. She was extremely uncomfortable, but could not decline.
These searches are not due to information that these people have drugs, weapons or even a mobile phone, rather, they are routine and expected at least monthly.
As a trained and licensed security guard, I have always been told that ALL pat-downs need to be same-gender, which is mainly for comfort reasons, religious reasons and of course the protection from potential lawsuits, should someone claim they were inappropriately being touched.
This was basic training, given on day one of all training, and yet Serco seem to be overlooking this. I can only imagine what other regulations they are skirting around…
I ask you this. Would you be comfortable hearing of your wife or children being subjected to a physical pat-down by a n overbearing male guard, with no charge or guilt, but merely because they could?
Of course, I mean no disrespect with the previous question, only to highlight my point that this practice should not be condoned, regardless of your views on asylum seekers arriving by boat or by plane etc.
This needs to stop.
A group of us have already met with management of MITA, and have been told of the ‘wonderful things that are being done for detainees’ etc. I see these responses now to be total lies and fabrications.
further communications with the management team to clarify some of these allegations have gone unanswered.
Could you please pass this on to anyone who is asking the questions in the Senates Estimates committee?
I would like to know, how all of these restrictions are meant to be ‘saving money’, when in actual fact, it will cost us much more in regards to the mental health, wellbeing and dignity of these people.
the effects of our inhumane treatment of these wonderful, amazing people will be felt for generations.