It was a beautiful Sunday arvo. Traipsed out west to support the Refugee Action Coalition in a clash with the right-wing Australian Protectionist Party. The APP had organised the rally because they think Rudd should go back to Howard’s Pacific Solution. I listened to their speech and they actually think the Pacific Solution wasn’t harsh enough, our borders should be completely closed to “illegals” (what they call people who flee for their lives without having valid passports and entry visas sorted out a year beforehand).
There was about 12 of them and they were hoping for a bit of aggro with the “looney lefties” who were marching up the road with a force of about 100 people.
Both groups had needed police approval for their rallies and the police had given approval for spots that were so far apart, the two groups couldn’t even see each other.
The neighbours of Villawood Detention Centre are fed up with the protests. They remember when there wasn’t any barbed wire around the complex and it had an idyllic village atmosphere.
“I was 13 and we used to wander through and visit all the time. Lots of Chinese migrants.
“We’d go to the shop there and eat meals with them in the big Mess Hall.” That was more than 20 years ago.
Another neighbour said there are regular breakouts. “Three Chinese escaped last week. It was in the local paper. They never seem to get caught.” I’d heard a couple of weeks ago that the hunt for escapees was like a Keystone Cops scenario with police, dogs and helicopters searching through people’s backyards in a comedy of errors. But the neighbours seemed to think no attempt was made to find them.
They pointed out a row of five lovely houses, near the street, built to keep migrant families together. “But nobody’s ever lived in them. We’ve never seen anyone come and go.” I had a closer look and there are bunk beds in them but the rooms all look empty.
They’re also cheesed off that property prices have gone down since Villawood became notorious years ago and “it’s not even Villawood – it’s Chester Hill. The nearest station is Leightonfield – Villawood station is two stops away.” They’re right, according to the UBD. Why is it called Villawood Detention Centre?
A couple of passersby taunted the APP, who used their megaphones to call them the “great unwashed”. One of the APP supporters told me “illegals bring diseases” and “we should protect our standard of living”. The refugees obviously could hear the commotion and starting chanting something back and some of them began a hunger strike.
There were lots of police vans and cars blocking the two groups. I walked off to see the RAC and they were singing and drumming and had a couple of speeches and a final song. They were concerned about whether they’d got enough or any media coverage, as they were anxious for the refugees and other Australians to realise that the whole country’s “not racist”.
As I walked back to my car, the APPs were driving by, mostly in big 4WDs.
Villawood Detention Centre had been emptier for a while, then recently got 80 or so new arrivals (cos Christmas Island is filling up) and now Rudd has cracked down on Afghan and Sri Lankan refugees getting in.
There has been a lot of recent action before the coming federal election to appease anxious minorities in marginal seats.
From the RAC email: “The APP are anti-refugee, anti-immigrant & racist. They letterbox leaflets that scapegoat Africans, Muslims & immigrants for crime, unemployment & other social problems.
“However, the major parties are also to blame – they have given a green light to racism, by also demonising refugees & using migrants as scapegoats.
“Racism kills. Refugees are still being deported to their deaths. Attacks on international students and immigrants are increasing.
“We need a peaceful show of support for refugee rights, for equality and justice – and to let all racists know that their hatred is not welcome.”