Dandenong protesters call for release of Broadmeadows detainees

Protesters calling for the release of refugees from ‘‘indefinite detention’’ rallied in Dandenong on Thursday.


PROTESTERS calling for the release of refugees from ‘‘indefinite detention’’ rallied outside Department of Immigration and Citizenship offices in Dandenong on Thursday evening.

About 50 protesters, organised by Tamil Refugee Council in Australia, gathered by candlelight at the Thomas Street offices to call for the release of refugees from ‘‘indefinite detention’’ at the Broadmeadows detention centre.

The protest started after a 10-day hunger strike by 27 of the centre’s refugees ended last week.

One of the protesters Aran Mylvanagam, of Dandenong North, said it was an outrage that 55 refugees were being detained indefinitely because of adverse ASIO security assessments.

Of those refugees, 52 are Tamils including seven children.

Mr Mylvanagam said one of them was a three year old, born in detention and remaining locked up indefinitely with his mother because she was classified as a security risk.

He has frequently visited refugees at the Broadmeadows centre, some detained for four years without legal recourse against the secret assessments, he says.

“I have got to know the refugees there well. Their only crime is seeking asylum in Australia. I know they are not a security threat,’’ he said.

“We don’t know the criteria that ASIO uses. [The refugees] support the Tamil struggle in Sri Lanka so are found to be a security threat. I don’t know why they’d be a threat to Australia.’’

Mr Mylvanagam arrived from Sri Lanka in 1997 as a 13-year-old Tamil refugee. His then 14-year-old brother had been killed at school due to the civil war between the government and Tamils.

He was locked up in Villawood for three months during his assessment. 

“It’s not a good experience being stuck in a very small area and not being able to walk around.

“While locking up a child is wrong, I was suffering less in Australia than in Sri Lanka.’’

He says the persecution of Tamils continues in Sri Lanka, despite Australian politicians’ assurances to the contrary.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as reported in Fairfax Media, said the assessments were made by Australian intelligence analysts and not relying on information from the Sri Lankan government.

She said Australian intelligence analysts ‘‘use the best intelligence they can to give us the best advice they can’’.