Spirit of Freedom misses Woomera
by Janice Hamilton Last week the Refugee Embassy in Woomera was contacted by representatives of the Spirit of Freedom, the balloon piloted by American Steve Fossett, to say that he was aiming to land his balloon in Woomera. The Spirit of Freedom didn't land in Woomera, but the Embassy collected messages of welcome and congratulations from refugees inside the detention centre which were delivered to Steve Fosset when he touched down eventually in Queensland. Word from inside Woomera is that the detainees are excited to hear that people around the world are taking part in rolling hunger strikes as a sign of solidarity. A national day of Fasting for Refugees was set to be held on Monday July 8. Phones inside the Woomera Detention Centre have once again been turned off. This time the excuse is that too many students from around Australia are en route to a "Student's for Solidarity" conference in Perth, and this represents a "yellow alert" threat to national security. This is an example of how the Government is going to use so-called "anti- terrorist" legislation against Australians in the future. Student protestors and anyone else suspected of disagreeing with the Howard Government will be stalked, harassed, and cut off from contact with the community at the whim of a Minister for Immigration. Two children, who are still unaccounted for after escaping at the end of June, have been identified as brothers, and the Refugee Embassy is seeking information on behalf of their parents as to whether or not they are in contact with one another and if they are safe. Phillip Ruddock has refused to enlist the support of the army to search for detainees who are believed to be lost in the desert in Central Australia. Ruddock has used the excuse that he has received information that they are safe. If that is the case the Minister should reveal the source of his information. The death of a refugee could be used by the Government as a political weapon to attack those who were moved by the pleas for freedom and helped refugees out of Ruddock's hell-hole. If anyone dies in the desert the full blame belongs with Ruddock and his racially motivated Government. Meanwhile, the hunger strike continues inside Woomera. Some who were denied their regulation mediation by the Department of Immigration unless they ate, have dropped out of the hunger strike Returned escapees have also resumed the hunger strike along with their fellow protestors inside the centre. There have been reports from Port Headland that the Department of Immigration is provoking prisoners in an effort to start a "riot", so that they can deflect attention from the hunger strike at Woomera. Prisoners have said that they are going to try hard not to give in to the provocations coming from prison guards. Detainees at Port Headland say that they are continually hungry due to lack of food. At one stage the Department of Immigration gave detainees only bread and cheese because they refused to work in the kitchen after their pay was dropped from $1.20 to 90 cents an hour. Refugees say that Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) is making a fortune on the backs of their slave labour. At the same time the Department of Immigration threatens to charge asylum seekers at five-star hotel rates for their enforced stay at the centre when they are finally released or deported. There are also reports that as part of the attack on the detainees and in an attempt to humiliate them, ACM is now serving such things as uncooked chicken legs. The menu just shows "chicken". They are also being given shrivelled up fruit.