Outside Villawood Detention Centre 21 September 2010: Police, Protesters, Press, Bloodthirsty Bogans and Hectic Habibs.

When (on Tuesday Sept 21, 2010) inmates of the prison full of innocent people called the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre took to the roof, threatening suicide (following the suicide of a detainee facing deportation the day before), protesters, the (stupidly aggressive) police, locals, and the press gathered round outside. This is some very rough cut footage of that:

The long interview is with Daniel Burke, an activist from the Refugee Action Coalition

Oh and here is a transcript of my conversation the two bogans early in the piece since the wind on the mic is much louder than them:

Me: You guys aren’t here for the protest then?

B1: Nah we wanna see someone jump!

Me: Okay. What are your names guys?

B1: Bob

B2: Bummo – [I think this is what he said]

Me: And where are you guys from?

B2: Just around the corner

B1: Bankstown!

Me: So your locals

Both Bs in unison: Yeah

Me: You see a lot of protests here?

B1: Nah…[inaudable] we just wanna see some blood.

Me: Okay. You missed the suicide yesterday?

B1: naaahhh, what?  That the guy that landed on his head?

Me: yeah

B1: oh that was pretty sick.

I should add, a little while later they actually started asking me questions about the issue, and I tried explaining – in what was a simplification – that the guys on the roof were threatening to jump because we wouldn’t let them in to Australia. To which B2, who seemed the more thoughtful of the two, said, “that’s coz we pay for them”. I pointed out that it cost more to keep them in detention than let them out, which left them nodding thoughtfully.  I think we should be careful when making that point though, in that we only make it as a way of deflating the rather illogical argument that we have to lock them up to save money. No politicians I know of make this argument, of course, because it is so blatantly stupid. The people who support their anti-asylum stand, however, don’t really think things through that often, and will conflate immigrants with dole bludgers as the ugly “them” that are ruining everything good.

The problem is, that arguing that we should release them into the community while their applications are processed because it is cheaper, is like arguing that the genocide of Tasmania’s aborigines was a bad idea because they could have been used as cheap labor. The point is these people are, in the vast majority of cases innocent of any crime. It is not a crime to flee persecution and seek asylum.

I’ll be writing up a proper article on the issue for the next edition of The Sydney City Hub.

*Update* The article is now published and available online here

Oh and in case u missed it here is a video me and some peeps shot at Villawood a month and a bit ago.



About Austin G. Mackell

I am a freelance journalist who has worked for a variety of corporate and community outlets from my hometown of Sydney and from the Middle East, including from Lebanon during Israels 2006 invasion and from Iran during the tumultuous presidential elections there in 2009. I have recently moved to Cairo to watch the revolutions in Arab world unfold.
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