So far in this election campaign the only r word employed by politicians has been peppered through the Treasurer’s press conferences. 

But the footage we reveal today, which has never been released to the public, concerns a subject that has featured promimently in elections past: refugees.

The video includes footage of the Port Hedland detention centre riots from May 2001 and was leaked by an anonymous guard shortly after the riot occurred, a time when the media was denied access to Australian detention centres. 

The footage came to light after producers of the US reality television program Most Shocking  sought it from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre this year. The producers of the program, which airs on Channel Seven, eventually rejected the Port Hedland tape on the grounds that it wasn’t “pro government forces”.

Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has told Crikey that the video was filmed by the government contractor Australasian Correctional Management to be circulated in the Department of Immigration.

In the video, the ACM official explains:

So DIMA in Canberra know this is gonig on today, I’ve told them that what they will see, because they’ll get a copy of the video, they will see some professionals doing their job in a professional and courteous manner… how you do your job, if you’re watched by the rest of the residents, needs to be professional and courteous, and you’ll get a lot of understanding, and I think it will help make things easier on the ground floor if it goes well today… and also that this video is going to be beamed around the company, it’s going to be beamed around DIMA.

According to the video, one hour later, a then seventeen-year-old Iranian boy named Morteza Porvadi was told that he was to be removed to another facility.

Morteza himself narrates the incident: in the video he says that the guards told him that he was to be removed to another facility, but the official could not tell them where. Morteza, who was detained in Port Hedland with his father, mother and sisters, says that he was told that until the officials knew where they were taking him, they would be placing him in isolation.

Morteza then says that he was told his father was to be taken to the local police station, but again was not told why.

After the incident depicted, Morteza says he was subsequently detained in a number of different detention centres for a total of 27 months. 

He now lives in Sydney after being granted a permanent visa. At the time the footage was taken, he believed he was being separated from his father and became distressed. As the footage shows, he was eventually cuffed, allegedly assaulted and as the video shows, placed in solitary isolation, sparking the Port Hedland riots of May 11 2001.

At the time then Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock described the altercation:

The individual who resisted and was very difficult about it and whom they endeavoured to remove quietly, became more aggressive. There was an altercation which ensued. And from that arose claims that he had been assaulted. And the larger group of people then started to break into various parts of the centre and caused a good deal of damage.   

The riots, which involved more than a hundred inmates, were eventually quelled after police and detention centre staff used tear gas. Buildings surrounding the centre were evacuated, and an extra 20 police called in.

The riots prompted a May 26 raid on the Port Hedland detention centre and the arrest of 22 refugees singled out from the May 11 riot. When asked by AM if he would consider reviewing the actual detention centre or the policy of mandatory detention, then Immigration Minister, and now Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock replied:

Well, I’m not sure why one would argue that the policy of detention should be reviewed because detainees aren’t prepared to observe normal standards of behaviour that we would expect in the Australian community. I mean, that would be like saying that you would close a jail because some people who had been convicted of offences didn’t like being detained.   

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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