Detainees in Sydney and Melbourne immigration detention centres have joined a hunger strike that started in WA’s Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre last week. Border Force continue to deny a strike is taking place.
Detainees from Sydney’s Villawood detention centre estimate between 300 and 400 people have joined the hunger strike, including the women’s unit. Others from Melbourne’s new Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) north complex have now re-joined the strike saying Border Force and Serco management have not fulfilled agreements made last week.
Crikey has obtained a list of requests by the Villawood strikers which was handed to detention management on Tuesday.
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Detainees report that conditions in the new MITA north unit which opened last year are worse than those in high security prisons. Footage shows that detainees have no privacy from their roommates in the shower or toilet area, and detainees say they believed management would be adding curtains as a privacy concession after meetings during the first hunger strike last week. As of Monday, they say no concessions had been made.
Detainees in MITA also asked for better seating in the visit area, saying the metal stools which are bolted to the ground are completely unsuitable for elderly visitors or anyone with a physical incapacity. They say that management did put several chairs in for children as well as a TV, but that the television does not work.
A Melbourne detainee told Crikey:
Last week we asked for things we thought were achievable and in line with what conditions are in Australian prisons. We asked for more food because right now we are only get a 75gm piece of protein, the quality and the quantity of the food here is a massive issue and it makes no sense. The catering staff are the same people who did the food at Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre [now closed] and there was no limits on what we ate, so why is it limited here?
Multiple sources have made the same complaint about the food, including a woman who was pregnant while in detention.
During the weekend, the detainees on hunger strike at Yongah Hill staged a peaceful protest that included a number of New Zealand detainees performing a haka and sleeping outside overnight.
While Border Force deny there is any mass hunger strike, Crikey has heard leaked audio of a meeting in Yongah Hill detention centre between detainees, Border Force and Serco management where the protest is discussed. Crikey submitted questions to Border Force yesterday morning asking if ABF still deny there is any hunger strike protest and was directed to a statement late in the day:
There is no mass hunger strike within the Australian immigration detention network, or at any immigration centres. Those detainees publicly claiming to be on a hunger strike continue to be observed eating and drinking within the centres, despite not attending regular meal times.
Detainees in Brisbane are discussing if they will also join the strike. Late Monday, Brisbane detainees met with Serco and Border Force management to discuss the strike action at other centres around Australia.
A Brisbane detainee who spoke to Crikey said:
Many of us have been in through these other centres around Australia and Christmas Island so we know how bad they are and, while we want to say that we have no problem with the way the Brisbane centre is run, we do want to voice our support 100% for the hunger strikers in the other centres.
The separation from our families especially for people from the eastern coast placed in Perth is an unnecessary and punitive punishment.