Posted by David Chibo (22.214.171.124) on October 09, 2001 at 03:06:05:
Just got back from Sydney yesterday....it's been a hectic weekend.
Just a note on what we got up to on Sunday afternoon.
The Australian government, who have blindly supported the U.S. in the anti-semetic Genocide via sanctions on Iraq, feels as though it shouldn't take responsibility for the victims of it's crime.
All Middle Easterners arriving in Australia are currently locked up in Detention centres (Concentration camps) while they await processing to see if they are genuine refugees.
These detention centres do not have any whities in them at all. New Zealanders, Brits, and Americans who violate their visas and stay in Australia are totally ignored.
Meanwhile the authorities are told to conduct a "go slow" and drag their heels while processing is conducted.
We formed a group that was visiting Villawood (Sydney, near Fairfield) detention centre on Sunday. Sennacherib Daniel and I felt that it was an ideal opportunity to write an article for Nakosha.
We were led through 18 foot fences topped by razor wire and were put through some extensive security screening before finally being allowed to visit the group of Assyrians. Cameras and mobile phones were amongest the numerous items banned.
There were 9 Assyrian refugees in all consisting of 5 males, 3 females (one pregnant) and 1 child. All had come from Iraq from Baghdad or Mosul.
They were scared and apprehensive and were reluctant to say too much for fear of it affecting their cases.
We had brought them some traditonal Assyrian food in order to raise their spirits and we all sat down in the
visiting area and ate lunch together as they told us their sad stories.
Some had been in the detention centre for over 2 1/2 years!
One girl was pregnant not knowing were in the world her husband had wound up. One boy of 16 was also there.
To gain an understanding of their everyday lives they described their conditions to me.
1. Headcount - 6 times per day.
2. Sleep deprivation - One of these headcounts was conducted at 3:30am in the morning which meant that no-one could sleep a full 8 hours without interruption.
3. Handcuffs - Were used when the prisoners, I mean refugees, visited the doctor. They were also used on the seven month pregnant Assyrian girl during her checkups.
4. The food and the living conditons were average.
5. Anyone who decided to work was payed $1/hour.
When I asked them what we could do to help, and what they needed, their answers were heartbreaking.
One man, who wished to rmain nameless, and who had been in the centre for over 2 1/2 tears said, "Not once in the many years that we have been here have even one of our priests visited us on a Sunday and conducted a simple religous service for us. Quasha Zuher (Chaldean) and Mar Melis (CofE) both know we are here but claim they can do nothing. We don't want them to break us out, we want them to visit us and lift our morale."
"We have been here for many years and may be here even longer. We do not need money, food or clothing. What we need is to see our people, to have them visit us in order for us not to feel so isolated and alone in this strange country."
At this point one of the ladies who was visiting with us, Bernadette Haroon, burst into tears as the rest of us bit our lips in order to control our emotions.
Time was up and we were escorted outside as they were led back to their rooms.
I walked to the car and helped drop off the empty pots we had brought, then turned to remind Sankho about taking some pictures of Villawood from outside.
He was way ahead of me, and must have gotten off half a dozen snaps on his digital-camera before 4 security men rushed out and confronted him. I joined him as they began interrogating him. He flat-out refused to hand over his camera or film at which point I introduced myself and told them we were reporters for a magazine. This made them very edgy and nervous, understandable considering what they were trying to cover up.
After they made some veiled threats we decided we had achieved what we set out to and walked away. Besides we had some great pictures of the razor wire and electrified fence.
More details to come.......
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