Detainees' protest halts deportation
March 1, 2007
The Age (Melbourne)
A MASS protest by detainees at Villawood detention centre has halted the deportation to China of a Falun Gong practitioner, An Xiang Tao.
Mr An, 35, was to have been deported at noon but his removal was aborted after more than 100 detainees formed a human shield to prevent his removal, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition of NSW, Ian Rintoul, said.
Falun Gong supporters maintain the man would face persecution if returned to China.
Mr An came to Australia in 2000 and has been detained for four years after his application for asylum was rejected.
He was one of a group of Chinese detainees who Chinese Government officials were controversially given access to in Villawood in 2005.
That has heightened concerns about what might happen to him if he was repatriated, Mr Rintoul said.
Lawyers acting for Mr An in the Federal Court yesterday failed to stop the deportation order.
The Immigration Department had recently stepped up deportation from Villawood over the past few weeks, Mr Rintoul said.
In the past fortnight it has deported a Filipino, a Nepalese and two Chinese. Last week a Vietnamese man thwarted his deportation by hiding in the centre.
Another Chinese man halted his deportation after arguing in the Federal Court that he had been denied procedural fairness. He had not been informed of his right to appeal against his asylum rejection beyond the Refugee Review Tribunal.
Tensions are running high in the centre and one detainee said it was a life or death situation.
“We are prepared to take any action to protect this man,” Mr Rintoul said.
About 40 guards and immigration officers had threatened to physically remove Mr An. A stand-off lasted until 11am, when an officer told the detainees that the deportation would not take place yesterday.
The Immigration Minister must urgently review the case to prevent a gross miscarriage of justice, Mr Rintoul said.