Archive for the ‘Villawood’ tag
Some readers have asked me why I’ve taken particular interest in Australia’s refugee prison scandal. For the past few months, I’ve written extensively about the prisons and the company, Serco, that runs the private detention system. Apart from having a personal connection to the story (I was able to visit the Villawood Detention Centre last year,) I think it’s important to draw attention to this story for a few reasons.
First, stories such as this run the danger of slipping through the cracks simply because it’s not happening in America, or China. While Australia is certainly a huge world power, it’s not a country that inherently resides on the radar of the international human rights groups. When people imagine massive human rights violations, they think of naked Arab dudes stacked in a pyramid beside a grinning white American female, or wheezing children hunched over in some Chinese sweatshop, but they might not automatically envision Australians – arguably the world’s most beloved people (who could hate Koala-cuddlers?) – committing the atrocities.
Second, I don’t believe journalists have limited jurisdiction in what they cover. I can’t imagine anyone levelling this criticism at a New York Times reporter for daring to cover the Afghanistan occupation even though he/she isn’t Afghan, so why create a different standard for bloggers? It’s important to cover injustice everywhere precisely because it can happen anywhere. That is why, even though I’m not Australian, I felt a duty to report on what I saw at Villawood, and despite the fact that I’m American, and America has a well-documented history of human rights violations itself. It’s not a pot calling the kettle black thing because I don’t deny America has its own issues, but that doesn’t excuse the Australian government when it commits heinous crimes against humanity.
And last, these kind of authoritarian policies have a habit of spreading, particularly during times of great economic strife. For example, we’ve already seen Australia’s internment policies influence Canadian lawmakers. So it’s important to spotlight these things as they happen. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and all that.
This week, the UN is holding a meeting to grill Australia on its human rights record. This is the first time Australia will be interrogated in this fashion, and no doubt the treatment of refugees (including their habit of committing suicide while in prison) will come up.
How we treat the least among us is always an important story because of the ripple effect. We’ve already seen how poverty and perpetual war can create an environment in which young men are willing to be recruited by religious extremists, and coached to hijack planes in order to kill thousands of innocents. For many refugees, the internment camps in Australia are their first exposure to western culture (or the lack of it.) Imagine how this systematic abuse will influence their opinion of the west, and also how their children will begin to understand how the justice system doesn’t exist to help them, but rather to punish them for the crime of not possessing enough wealth and privilege to buy their way into society.
It’s been a hell of a week at Citizen Radio (which you can hear by subscribing for free at wearecitizenradio.com)
We talked full-body scanners and racial profiling, celebrated our 200TH EPISODE and interviewed Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard about environmental politics, Halliburton, and BP, and Daniel Burke about Australia’s refugee prisons.
It’s time to call sabotage, sabotage. Republicans have repeatedly undermined Democratic-led efforts — not for the sake of easing the recession, fixing unemployment, or stemming the foreclosure crisis — but for the expressed purpose of making Obama a one-term president.
The IMF is pressuring Ireland to cut unemployment benefits and the minimum wage, and USA Today reports that in the last 5 years fully body scanner firms have doubled their lobbying efforts..
Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard explains Cap and Trade, dissects Obama’s progress on environmental issues and also the global warming deniers within the GOP, Halliburton’s role in BP and hydraulic fracturing, and the environmental legacy of BP’s toxic dispersants.
The Oracle AKA Daniel Burke then gives some updates on the refugee prisons in Australia, including another tragic suicide and his rough encounter with police during a protest.
Also, Jamie shares his experience taping for Joy Behar’s show, including surviving the taunts of a demon child, witnessing the glorious Joan Collins, and -why not?- encountering the grandmother from Everybody Loves Raymond.
And as always, Citizen Radio answers a ton of your Listener Mail! Questions/comments this week include: how Christians aren’t a monolith and talking to your apathetic hipster douche bags.
- Hear all episodes by subscribing to the FREE podcast at http://wearecitizenradio.com/! (Remember to rate and review the show on iTunes!)
- Due to popular demand, the amazing Luke Radl has designed DOWNLOADABLE Citizen Radio posters that you can print out and give to your friends, and post around your community. Get ‘em here:http://www.lukeradl.com/2010/10/citizen-radio-flyers/
- Spread the word about Citizen Radio! When 500 members sign up, the show goes FIVE times per week! You guys have done a great job so far. 236 members have signed up in only a couple months, which allowed Allison and Jamie to purchase a shiny new sound system! Much thanks!
- This, and all CR podcasts, are brought to you by the good folks at Vegan Essentials (http://www.veganessentials.com/). Shop there for all your vegan needs, and tell ‘em Citizen Radio sent you!
The company that runs Australia’s refugee prisons has set its sights on an NHS hospital. Serco Health, along with another company, Circle Health, have bid for a contract to run Hinchingbrooke, a hospital in Cambridgeshire. If the deal goes through, this would be the first ever NHS hospital to be put into the hands of a private company, according to Social Affairs Correspondent, Victoria Macdonald.
Serco has recently been in the news because the refugees being held in their prisons have a habit of committing suicide and sewing their lips together in order to protest their inhumane living conditions.
The Hinchingbrooke contract would be yet another public-turned-private feather in Serco’s cap. The company has long been at the forefront of privatized infrastructure, including numerous facets of London transport, the Great Southern Railways in Australia and the Dubai Metro, air traffic control services to international airports in Bahrain, Dubai and smaller airports in the United States, and since 2004, Serco has had a $7.9 million annual contract from the US government to manage airports in Iraq.
I recently wrote a column for Truthout about the refugee prisons in Australia detailing one of the facilities (Villawood) where a 36-year-old Fijian national named Josefa Rauluni committed suicide by leaping from a roof. (I nearly got tossed from the place because one of Serco’s employees saw I had scribbled “Fiji suicide” in my notes.)
Daniel, my guide for the Villawood tour, wrote this week to inform me that there’s been another suicide at Villawood. Here’s the email he sent:
If this actually comes to pass, it’ll be very good news:
In a major policy shift, the Federal Government is preparing to announce plans to release hundreds of asylum seekers from detention and allow them to live in the community while their applications for asylum are being assessed.
The West Australian newspaper is today reporting that under the new plan, asylum seekers who are not considered a security risk will be eligible for release, with priority given to families with children.
It means hundreds of asylum seekers, including about 700 children, who are currently in detention centres are likely to be released.
I just published an article on Truthout about the refugee prisons that can be read here.