Signage for Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre removed and painted over while the centre was in operation.
Visitors to detention centres are given a numbered wristband upon entry. This is reminiscent of how numbers are used throughout the detention system.
Asylum seekers who arrived by boat were given a unique code for identification purposes. Detention centre staff have been known to call asylum seekers by their boat number instead of their actual names. As a result, children have begun to use this code as their name.
Moorthy was recognised as a refugee in 2011 but never received a visa. His nickname in detention was “more tea” because he would make everyone tea during visits. He made approximately 21,840 cups of tea in his time in detention.
Rujul and his son, Deeran, first met when Deeran was four.
They were able to spend thirteen days together.
A counsellor in a Perth detention centre would tell detainees to blow up a balloon and when it burst he would say to them, ‘this is life’.
Visits were especially quiet during Ramadan. People were too tired and too sad to come to visits.
Rujul’s old towel hanger.
In August 2017, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection introduced the Final Departure Bridging Visa E. This new visa applied to those in community detention who had been brought to Australia from offshore centres for medical treatment.
Within three weeks of the announcement welfare ceased and people were evicted from community housing. They were required to find a job, a place to live, and make arrangements to return to offshore detention or to their home country within six months, 28th February.
Rujul was nervous in the lead up to this date, so worried that he couldn’t eat or sleep. On February 28, people on this visa were called into the immigration office. They were again put on the six month Final Departure Bridging Visa E. After the meeting Rujul said he was relieved, but knew the relief was temporary.
Paari spent the first years of his life inside Villawood Detention Centre. For his third birthday, he wanted a key.
Guards in some detention centres are required to have a Hoffman Knife.
These are used to cut down detainees found hanging.
Maj has a recurring nightmare. In it, he is in the detention centre and sees a fire making its way towards him. He turns to evacuate, but the Serco guards leave, abandoning the centre with the detainees locked inside.
When I first started visiting MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation), the visiting room was always lively and full of people. People would exchange scraps of paper with names and contact details to note for future visits, and to keep in touch in the meantime.
This is how tired we are. This action will prove how exhausted we are. I cannot take it anymore.
Omid Masoumali, a 23 year old man from Iran, had been living on Nauru for three years. On 26 April 2016 following a visit from United Nations officials, he set himself on fire.
Ismail and I have laughed about his ordeals sharing bunk beds; heavy roommates and wobbly frames, loud snorers, and hitting his head on the ceiling when he wakes up.
Other times when roommates have woken him up, finding him crying in his sleep.
Ismail used to have beautiful hair.
He says after four years in detention his appearance has completely changed. Stress has diminished his appetite and he now takes medication to sustain his energy. Today Ismail eats just two slices of toast a day.
One time in detention, Maj had to go to hospital. His hands and feet were cuffed. Being restrained caused him intense panic. As he was taken through the hospital, he noticed the looks of people around him; Australian people whom he wanted to make a good impression. He wanted to make it clear that he was an asylum seeker, not a criminal. He asked the Serco guards for water again and again knowing they had to feed it to him, hoping to express his humanity.
Nima and I are the same age. He has four qualifications and likes to play the violin. The first time we met, he had our whole table entertained with magic tricks.
He has been in detention for five years. His processing began last November.
It is common for people in detention to be heavily medicated.
It has been noted that though people have different needs, everyone is prescribed the same medication.