Have to refer you to this utterly disturbing first-hand report in today’s Crikey regarding the Darwin detention centre breakout last week:
The protestors would not have been heartened by the threats and abuse from some locals as they drove by. Radio ran hot with calls for shooting, tasers and tear gas as well as calls for compassion and generosity.
At 9am as I walked past the men sitting on the ground, one man raised his cupped empty hand to his mouth in a drinking motion. I could see that he was wordlessly asking for water. I asked to see the senior officer on duty explaining that the men needed water. It was about 35 degrees with high humidity and they were sitting in the sun with cloths on their heads for protection. The police were passing bottles of water to each other in front of the Afghan men…
Sandi Logan, national communications manager for immigration, who happened to be up from Canberra, had explained to journalists that the men were being denied water as a “negotiating tactic”.
Logan tried to move away from this statement later, telling journalists that many of the protesters were fasting for the holy month of Ramadan. “Many of them refused the offer of water,” he said.
But too many journalists had already recorded the “negotiating tactic” quote in their notebooks.
Ultimately 15 or so of them required hospitalisation for dehydration. And we were just getting started punishing them:
So it was that a peaceful protest initiated by misinformation and mistrust ends up with 15 men going to hospital and another 80 carted off, first to the Darwin watchhouse, then in a convoy of caged vans to a specially chartered plane to Curtin Detention Centre. These men were taken without their medications and their few personal affects. Some of these men have been tortured back in their homeland and are in the middle of treatment plans with counsellors, which are now suspended.
There are no mental health facilities in Curtin as yet. Most importantly for immigration, the men have no access to phones and communication so if they are charged with writing on their bed sheets (wilful destruction of immigration property) or escaping from lawful custody (sitting 50 metres from their prison fences), who will defend them?
I’m very, very glad I voted for neither of the big parties. This race to the bottom in how we treat refugees continues to do real harm.
It’s worth reading the whole article, which also outlines what actually prompted the walkout in the first place.