Conditions in Immigration Detention deteriorating – By JULIAN BURNSIDE

I have received several reports in the past few days which show just how bad things are getting in our ONSHORE detention facilities.

Some people – and that probably means most of the people who voted for LNP or ALP or One Nation on Saturday – don’t care, or prefer to turn a blind eye, or they’re just over it.  Anything to avoid the pain or recognising that terrible things are being done in our name.

But the judgment of history will not be kind to those of us who prefer to ignore what our government is doing.  It may be that the judgment of history will be so long delayed that today’s voters will have sunk into the grave, or dementia by the time it comes.

I only hope that the judgment of history will not be so long delayed for the real criminals: Abbott, Dutton, Morrison, Turnbull: The people who lied to the Australian public by calling boat people “illegal”, even though boat people commit no offence by coming here.  The people who built on that lie by calling the whole exercise “border protection” and persuaded the public that locking up innocent children would, in some unidentified way, protect us from terrorism.  The people who pretended to be devout Christians, but who willingly condemned innocent people to incarceration and torture and in some cases death.

So here’s the latest:

“SERCO and BorderForce are proud of their “New Operating Model- CONTROLLED MOVEMENT” which is causing great distress.

 The physical conditions at the MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, 120 Camp Road Broadmeadows in Victoria) are deteriorating weekly under BorderForce to a standard which fails in its duty of care provision and fails in providing safety.

The men in Bass 1 and Bass 2 are crammed in rooms approximately 3 metres by 2 metres in bunk-beds. They have no outdoor recreation space, nowhere even to cry privately. Their communal space is one room, which is the dining room, kitchen, TV, pool table and English class.  The result is chaos. Meals are brought in from a central kitchen to further limit contact between compounds. The men say the noise in the low-ceiling demountable rooms is unbearable. Frequent quarrels and fights erupt because of the close quarters in which they are confined. The Gym contains two or three walking machines or bike machines in a tiny room. In order for the men  Bass 2 to get to the visits area, they must pass through five locked gates under escort and check at each gate. Similar for other compounds. There are now togged up guards of five  full-time ERT (Emergency Response Teams) on each day – looking for trouble.

Even the SERCO boss (a former Prison commandant) admitted  in a private meeting that such conditions would not be allowed in the prison system. The men have nothing to do all day except sleep and hope that they are called to visits where they may see former friends from other compounds and outsiders. The Volley ball court, soccer pitch and outdoor areas are now out of bounds beyond the fences except for short periods when SERCO elect to let them out.

We are witnessing  the physical and psychological condition of all the people deteriorate under these high security, high surveillance conditions. Even the women are now double searched every time they leave the camp to go to hospital or CASA house appointments. First they are electronically scanned and then female guards hands squeeze up and down their arms and legs and body and take shoes off, before female detainees leave, and on their arriving back at the camp. Male guards film the body search. The male detainees are often handcuffed and have two guards holding their upper arms throughout their time out in public hospital outpatient waiting rooms. Many are now refusing to attend specialist medical appointments because, as one man said last week, “Where is my dignity?” Room searches are constant and unpredictable, early morning or late at night.”

Many reports of immigration detention onshore and offshore say that the conditions in detention and the treatment of detainees is far worse than in the prison system, including maximum security prisons.  But people in immigration detention are not criminals; they have committed no offence: they are locked up indefinitely at the discretion of the government.  And the Turnbull government, with the help of the Shorten Opposition, last year made it a criminal offence for workers in the detention system to speak about conditions in detention.  I guess they would be embarrassed if the public at large knew what we are doing to people who are innocent of any offence.

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