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Refugees rename Baxter camp 'Abu Ghraib'
June 20, 2004


Two people wear signs on their back to protest the treatment of refugees. Photo: Dean Sewell
Refugees at South Australia's Baxter detention centre have renamed the facility Abu Ghraib, saying they had suffered similar violence to the Iraqi prisoners.

In a letter read to a Sydney rally to mark World Refugee Day, the Baxter detainees said the support from parts of the community was comforting given the nightmare they were living behind the razor wire.

"Recently its name was agreed to be Abu Ghraib prison, because all the mistreatment, humiliation and torture that the coalition soldiers have committed against the prisoners in Baghdad have happened in Australia too," the letter, read to the rally, said.

"[It's happened] against the ladies, against the children, against the men who came to your land to be safe and far away from any violence, imprisonment or discrimination."

The letter's main writer said after four years in detention he understood what humanity, human rights and equal opportunity meant - but he had seen no evidence of it in the way he had been treated.

"It is not deserved to call us queue-jumpers or illegal immigrants, to lock us up more than four or five or six years," he said.

"How strange that we must be in suffering now, after a long time, and live in this agony, torment, misery, distress and tribulation.

"I just want to know when - exactly when - can we live far from all these anxieties, pain and cruelties."

Also speaking at the Sydney rally - one of many such events organised to mark World Refugee Day in Australia - was now-infamous Big Brother evictee, Merlin Luck.

The 24-year-old emerged from the Big Brother house last Sunday with his mouth gaffer-taped shut, carrying a sign that read 'FREE TH (sic) REFUGEES'.

Mr Luck today suggested a more realistic TV program should be allowing the media into Australia's detention centres.

"People want real drama and real conflict, yet they change the channel when it's a child's face behind bars," he told the cheering crowd.

"Maybe we should set up cameras in there and evict someone every week, give them a brand new car and a mobile phone.

"Or maybe that's just a little bit too real."

Politicians from the Democrats, Greens and Labor also demanded the Howard government change its stance on mandatory detention.

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