Yet another rooftop protest by asylum seekers broke out yesterday at the Villawood detention centre in Sydney 12 hours after the previous one had ended. The five male and four female protesters, one of whom is pregnant, have again threatened to self-harm and jump from the roof if their asylum applications, which they claim are caught up in the current massive backlog, are not sped up. This protest follows news that 3 of the previous rooftop protesters had been placed in solitary despite assurances of no retaliation for their actions.
Like the previous protesters and a group of 16 Iranian and Kurdish detainees who have been on hunger strike since last Friday*, the nine had been protesting by refusing food and water and were already suffering from dehydration before beginning their rooftop protest. However, their initial requests for water to be sent up to them were refused by officials. Since then one of their number has left the roof via a cherrypicker to begin negotiations with immigration officials and the protesters have finally been allowed bottled water after 18 hours.
As a result of the latest protest the Immigration Department are gunning for the Serco centre managers, threatening the company with fines and further sanctions for allowing another group of detainees access to the roof and the resulting bad publicity at a time when the Australian detention system is under particular strain.
* Three others have already been hospitalised as a result of their participation in the hunger strike.