City Hub

Refugees dispatched into communication wilderness

Villawood Detention Centre. Photo by Kate Ausburn

Refugee advocates have speculated that around 80 asylum seekers from Villawood Detention Centre were relocated to the remote locations of Curtin and Yongah Hill because of ongoing legal proceedings.

The detainees were given a letter from the Department of Immigration on March 31, which told them they were being transferred because the detention centre is undergoing refurbishments.

“For building works to happen, some detainees will need to be transferred from the Villawood Centre to other detention facilities in Australia,” the letter stated.

Iraj Moghadam, a refugee from Iran, was part of the 40-odd protesters blockading the two coaches, which were used to transport detainees to the airport, outside Villawood on April 3.

“Four years ago I was in Villawood. My friends [are] inside and before yesterday they called me, they have to move…after four years, three years,” he told City Hub.

After spending four months at Villawood, Mr Moghadam was granted refugee status. He said he’d visited his friends in detention the day before, who were distraught.

The protest was disbanded by police and 40 detainees were transferred to Curtin. Further protests broke out on April 5 when around 40 more detainees were transferred to Yongah Hill.

Spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition Ian Rintoul said the detainees were being moved even though a new section of Villawood will be opened at the end of April.

“At the moment it’s indefinite, there’s certainly no indication that they will be brought back.”

Curtin is a remote and inhospitable place in outback Western Australia, Mr Rintoul explains, and it’s often difficult to communicate from the centre, with restrictions on phone and internet access.

“There’s a social issue about it, the fact that people who have been at Villawood have got extensive networks: relatives, family,” he said.

Phil Glendenning, director of the Edmund Rice Centre, said some of the relocated detainees are involved in legal proceedings against the federal government, as their privacy was breached when their personal details were posted on the department of immigration’s website.

“They’ve got court cases pending with regards to their privacy rights that have been breached, so one would wonder the connection between those two things,” he said.

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