Monday, 7 April 2014

a poor reception

i like to occasionally blog about my visits to the immigration detention centre because it makes me appear to be more interesting than i would otherwise. i like to make the actual visits because, as my insightful son reminds me, detainees can't get away :)
i love to be approved of and it is flattering to be commended for visiting but it's really not saintly. i wonder if it is my Christianity that motivates me or if it is my socialist tendencies or maybe it is just that i want to feel useful. one thing i know is that altruism usually has an attached benefit.
the message from detainees inside Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, just this past weekend

when i arrive at the IDC i park under a tree if i can and then walk down the road, maybe 200 metres, towards reception. the existing detention centre is to my left, there are two cyclone wire fences with a transit zone between them. in the distance i can see washing flap on lines as detainees shuffle about their day.
the new, fancier looking, more comfortable  jail  centre, as yet uninhabited, is to my right. the buildings are named after australian towns or explorers, something that attempts to make it all less institutional but really, a block number would be more honest. the brand new sport facility looks artificially cheerful with it's well watered turf and i wonder who they think is fooled.
i think about all of this every time i walk along this road and the weather always seems less kind than in any other situation: hot days seem more unbearable, if there is any rain about it always stings, a winter wind will blow grit.....

as i enter the lino floored reception area i breathe a quick sigh of relief that the road has been successfully navigated, there will often be one or two people surrounded by the scraps of possessions that they bring in plastic shopping bags for newly detained friends and  i wonder which of the reception people will deal with me. will it be the terminally bored young guy? or the middle aged woman who swings from pie- sweet to annoyingly aggressive and back again?

they issue me a locker key and put their black light squiggle on my wrist. on a good day i might be asked to step through the metal detector, other days i wait in vain for someone to acknowledge my passage into the secure zone. there might be a narcotic swab but most likely i will just go through to the courtyard.
( i do always go through the security system but sometimes it is so routine that i feel like a ghost)

there are well worn dust tracks through the grass and the undercover area is crazily placed right in the middle of the yard. i never fail to be irritated by the moronic non design. detainees lighting cigarettes from a hole in a wall seem to me to be the picture of institutionalisation, not even sharing a light but they appear strangely unbothered. small children on the crappy plastic excuse for a play area seem not to notice that there is little light in the eyes of their adults.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Oh my - the description of the conditions in the centre sent a chill through my bones. Like the previous comment, I don't believe in complete altruism either, but I do think that people give as much as they can...

  3. EC
    i accidentally removed your post, maybe will be able to get a cached copy. Meanwhile thanks for your regular encouragement and I take my hat off to your work with lifeline, that would be intense!

  4. My partner stayed at Villawood, when he migrated to Australia when he was 12. We drove past last week, he said from what he can see not much has changed. His memories, though, are positive, as he and his family were fleeing Cape Town, South Africa, as a fatwa had been placed on his father for changing his faith from Muslim to Christian.

  5. Peter,
    i have no doubt that people give a lot, I was really just reflecting that in my case I get some satisfaction from visiting so it's a two way thing.

  6. Anon,
    Muslim to Christian, huh? i bet there's a story in that!

    I think Villawood is part of a positive process for many people but there can be very dark times while waiting for the process to be finalised. I would like to see a more gentle approach.

    Thanks for visiting!

  7. I am from India where we are constantly faced with refugee problems and it is very difficult not to get worked up about some aspect or the other of the whole problem. I hope that you understand that I find it difficult to comment because it is a different country with its own internal problems.

  8. Rummuser,
    Comment as you wish, or not!
    with a controversial post such as this one i expect that it wont be all roses!


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