The protestors rallied against mandatory detention, recent changes to Australia's asylum seeker policies and the profiteering and human rights abuses of Serco, the UK corporation that has a $1.6 billion contact with the Gillard Government to run the immigration detention system.
Inside the Centre 600 asylum seekers are imprisoned by the Australian Government, the Department of Immigration and Serco.
The most powerful speaker was "J" a Sri Lankan man who had been imprisoned on the Christmas Island Detention Centre. His speech pointed to the importance of citizen protests for the health and wellbeing of people in detention. J suggested that protests actually save lives as they push back against the harm caused by mandatory detention.
His speech is posted below:
Hi everyone, my name is P***11, that’s what I used to be called in the detention, P***11. Being next to this detention centre just reminded me of how I was in the Christmas Island Detention. I don’t know which words should I use to describe that experience...should I use terrible? It was really - very, very bad - extremely bad. Being in somewhere you’ve never done anything wrong, and you’re locked up...and you run away from your country, from the place where is your family - looking for freedom – then – when you - the first time you put your step in Christmas island, you say hey, I am free now, like you know, almost now I am free, then unfortunately you are locked up for a year or something like this there. And...it’s like prison, it is a prison, it is not detention.
Everything – everything is like, the doors are locked, you can’t go through any door if you don’t have an officer next to you, even the medical area. The medical area should be like for if someone is sick or he needs just treatment and...that door...I just remember very well - it was that thick. It’s very, very bad to be there even afterwards – I never had any problem, mental problem - even in Christmas Island - but I had um somehow a sleeping problem, I couldn’t like sleeping more than two hours, like continuously. So two hours, wake up, then do something, then another two hours. Afterwards when I came to Australia – the mainland –and I am free - I shouldn’t have that problem because I don’t worry about anything but still I have that problem for a while for like the first 6 or first 7 months there.
The main issue there is you’re locked up and everyone is depressed, you just see your friends go, you make friend today - next day is gone. You don’t know, he’s just in the midnight, suddenly he is gone, he’s just like, next day you are looking for him then suddenly, you can’t find him because he has been transferred somewhere else.
Every week or every couple of days you will witness someone hang himself and that will like bring you down and already the detention is like kind of hell – you know I never been to hell – but it is hell. You know if you are somewhere in the hell and you want to climb up, you want to get out, but somehow, who runs that detention say, get down, that’s your place, it’s not up. It’s like every time you try to be better healthier, somewhere to do something good they say get down that’s your place, up is not your place.
Um personally, I witnessed three people, they commit suicide, you know one of them they uh, Sri Lankan guy, poor guy, he is died. He commit suicide by his bed- um – his bed sheets, um and he make like rope or something and he hang himself up, with somewhere very high. Just ask yourselves what kind of motivation he had to go all the way up just to hang himself and kill himself. And he was one of my friends, he had like problem like staying there for long time and depressed and he ended with, why am I here? Like what’s the end? Let’s just finish it, let’s kill myself and that’s it.
I never thought about these things in my life, but when I was in Christmas Island I thought about it once and thank god I didn’t do anything like this. But there are heaps of people who do it around you, all your friends think about it, all your friends are depressed, if you are trying your best to be like positive, you cannot because your friends who runs the detention, like total negative and racist. Totally racist...
I would say thankyou for every single man and woman who came here. I really, really, really appreciate it, appreciate it that you support my case and my friends case. And I just I talk you about one thing, I remember one of the time we did a protest at Christmas island and some people they did it in Sydney, we couldn’t see them because they are far away but we saw them, we saw some uh photos over the internet and we were so happy, we were so happy. Like okay, not all of them racist, there is some of them there, they like us, they want us and say okay okay, some of us say okay I’m going to like fight and stay healthy, maybe one day I get my visa.
And by the way, one of the first English words we have learned there is ‘racist’. Um so please, please, please show us if you are welcome us, show us. I swear to god you give us heaps of motivation to stay alive, we don’t hang ourselves, we don’t hang ourselves, we don’t commit suicide inside the detention. We say okay this country, the government don’t like us maybe, but the people like us. So and finally we will get in.