19 Jul. 2008

Quotes on mandatory detention

From an article in the SMH today:*

Labor MP Michael Danby on the $396 million Christmas Island detention centre: "giant Liberal steel prophylactic, a rusting stalag in the Christmas Island jungle and a monument to the folly of the previous government".

Deputy PM Julia Gillard: "We've always said that if people arrived unauthorised, they will have to be detained for health, security and identity checks." (This is a pretty minimal detention regime, more akin to mandatory quarantine. However, it's premises are dubious. Why do unauthorized arrivals have to be detained for such checks? Plenty of people can enter Australia without health checks and with only the security and identity checks in the immigration and customs halls in the airport terminal. The reason to detain immigrants is not for such tests, but precisely to prevent their entry into Australia. As such, the process must lead either to deportation or indefinite detention.)

Former detainee, Morteza Poorvadi: "The Iranian government could break our bones but not break our spirit; we were fighting for some reason. In Australia they break your spirit, they make you feel you are nothing, not in control of your life, they tell you when to sleep, eat, watch TV, what time to smoke. They say you are nothing and if you don't like it, just go back."

*The weird tagline to this article is "The question is not whether we detain asylum seekers, but on what terms, writes Connie Levett." Weird, because Levett does not phrase the debate in this scurrilous way – rather, it is phrased this way by the former detainee at the heart of the article, Morteza Poorvadi, and by the federal parliamentary inquiry, according to Levett.