Activists stave off the deportation of refugee

Refugee rights activists have helped to prevent the deportation of a 60-year-old man to Iraq. “Saeed” (not his real name) is from a religious minority that faces ongoing persecution. The head of his village was murdered in 2015 in a suicide attack. His family reside in Iraq but are stateless.

Saeed and his brother fled to Australia in 2012. They were on the same boat and shared the same set of circumstances. His brother was given asylum but Saeed was not. The Federal Court refused to hear an appeal of Saeed’s asylum status, ruling that he took too long to make his application. Saeed does not speak English and was never told that he had the right to appeal his original, flawed refugee determination.

After more than two weeks on hunger strike, Saeed was threatened with deportation on 22 March. Activists from the Refugee Action Collective, Love Makes a Way, Grandmothers for Refugees, and a variety of anarchists, socialists and faith-based groups responded by blockading the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation Detention Centre in Broadmeadows.

The blockade, which started the evening before Saeed was to be deported, prevented the government from moving him to the airport. Vehicles heading out of the detention centre were searched by activists to make sure Border Force officers did not smuggle him out.

While the blockade was successful in stalling Saeed’s deportation, lawyers struggled to negotiate on his behalf. They were stonewalled by Department of Immigration officials. Saeed’s lawyers report, however, that the Iraqi embassy stated that it is opposed to stateless refugees being deported to Iraq, particularly against their will.

Saeed was transported to Melbourne’s Northern Hospital by ambulance on the day he was set to be deported.

Refugee activists are calling on hospital staff to not release Saeed into Border Force custody and are in discussions with members of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation. The union issued a statement on 20 March, calling on the Turnbull government to “stop the impending deportation”.

The fight to stop the forced removal of Saeed is far from over. Refugee rights activists will need to be ready to mobilise in the coming days to ensure he is not deported.

Join the Close the Camps Action Collective protest tonight, 6:30pm. Event details: www.facebook.com/events/134306520432503