Don’t return survivors to Christmas Island

Refugee Action Coalition media release

Refugee supporters and relatives of the survivors’ relatives again gathered at the Miowera Road gates of Villawood detention centre at 8.30am Thursday, 17 February to call on the Minister of Immigration not to return the Christmas Island disaster survivors to the island.

It is expected that the survivors will be taken from the Villawood detention centre at 9.00am Thursday for the plane trip back to Christmas Island.

A letter (text below) signed by 16 of the 22 asylum seekers brought to Sydney was handed to Minister Chris Bowen on Wednesday night, appealing for him to act to stop the pending return to Christmas Island.

The survivors have told visitors that they do not want to go and will refuse to go in the morning.

“We will be at Villawood to support them in any way we can,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. “It is the Minister’s chance to turn over a new compassionate leaf in refugee policy. Don’t send these people back to Christmas Island.”

A phone call from survivors still on Christmas Island to the Refugee Action Coalition on Wednesday afternoon, said please tell the Minister not to bring the people back to Christmas Island. “We don’t want the government to bring them back,” the caller said. “We know them. Some don’t sleep. They are troubled all the time. Here is no good for them. Please let them stay. We are worried about what will happen to us. Please help”

Special pleas have been made to the Minister to allow Seena, the nine year old Iranian boy orphaned in the disaster, and Madian El Ibrahimy who lost his wife and two children, to stay in Sydney.

“The Minister says that he is treating the asylum seekers with dignity and respect, but it has been no such thing. By insisting that immigration department policies require Seena to be returned to detention when he has family in Sydney to care for him exposes the immigration department as an unfeeling bureaucratic machine. It is not too late for the Minster to act.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

To:  The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship,
The Hon Chris Bowen

Dear Minister,

We are survivors of the Christmas Island disaster. We have lost loved ones in the most tragic of circumstances so close to the island that we hoped would offer protection to those who needed it so badly.

We have travelled from Christmas Island to Sydney to bury family members. The sea has taken others away from us. Some have lost parents and parents have lost wives, husbands and children.

Christmas Island is now the place of nightmares and depression.

We are requesting that you reconsider the decision to send people back to Christmas Island.

We are overcome with grief. Some have attempted suicide. Our suffering has been too much. Please allow us to stay in Sydney where there are families and community support to help put our lives back together.

Signed: Survivors of the Christmas Island tragedy, and their relatives


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