“Mummy is in hospital and daddy is sick …” An afternoon’s visit to MITA detention centre in Melbourne

Visit to MITA (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation) detention centre Broadmeadows (24 July)

I’ve just now properly digested my mother’s account of one of her regular visits to detention centre located in suburban Melbourne after some travel this past week. It seemed timely to publish this given today’s evidence at the national inquiry into children in immigration detention.

This is a lightly edited version of her letter, published with her permission:

When normal visiting hours started at 2pm there was great sadness, as a stateless Rohingya family from Burma, mother, father and three children, who have not long started school, had that morning been sent back to Christmas Island. They had only recently been reunited with their teenage son after 2 years separation. On Wednesday they had to say goodbye to him as he was sent back to Brisbane.

We also heard that there would be a mass and memorial service at 5pm for the brother of one of the Tamil ASIO rejected men who tragically lost his life in Sri Lanka after much suffering.

Another ASIO rejected Tamil man came to me very upset as the day before he had just received another rejection. I had been seeing him on the last few visits as he asked me if I could give him some clothes for his 9 year old daughter, who is having a birthday soon, and his seven year old son so he could send the clothes to them in Sri Lanka.

We meet two grandmothers. One was to be sent back to Christmas Island the next day.

We had parcels for 8 individuals or families. One was for another large extended family. The father is a very bad diabetic requiring 2 injections daily and is having a lot of problems with his eye sight.

Another parcel was for a family where the mother is extremely depressed. There is the husband and 2 young children.

One parcel was for a 19 year old young lady who was born in Afghanistan but grew up in Pakistan. This beautiful young women arrived in Australia by plane 18mths ago seeking asylum. She spent 6 months in Maribynong and has now been in MITA for 12 months. She has seen over a thousand people come and go in that time and is very depressed.

We also had a parcel for an Iranian family, mother, father and 5 year old son. The mother suffers from severe depression and has spent time in hospital. She told me last week that it was her birthday on the 26th and also asked for clothes for the family. They were given clothing and a cake to celebrate her birthday. The husband was very grateful, saying it made his wife happy. She didn’t feel well enough to come to the visitors centre.

An Iranian man that I have assisted with clothing came and said hello. He is still waiting to have surgery on his knee that was damaged in the February riots on Manus Island.

Two mothers, sisters, both with 2 young children were bought in to meet us. They came from Christmas Island at the end of last week. They are suffering from severe depression. It became very emotional when one of the mothers showed me her arms. Both arms showed the scars of over thirty burn marks. She said to me, “all we want is freedom.” “Christmas Island is very bad.” I told her that we do not like what our government is doing. They told us they had a brother on Christmas Island but they rarely saw him because he was in another compound.

Another mother who we have assisted a number of times came to me very concerned about her 4 years old daughter who suffers from epilepsy, and having fits almost every day. She is also concerned that her daughter is very underweight and doesn’t like the food. When I first met the mother about 6 months ago she told me that she and her daughter had been sent to Perth for her daughter’s treatment. They were there for 2 months. During this time her husband and older son where left back on Christmas Island. They were reunited in MITA shortly after the mother and daughter arrived.

An 8 year old girl came up to me and said to me, “mummy is in hospital and daddy is sick.” We have assisted and met with this family many times. The mother is in hospital on suicide watch. Her 8 months old son is with her at the hospital. It is not her first visit to hospital. When the mother was around 6 months pregnant she was sent to Darwin to wait for the birth of the baby. Her husband, son and daughter remained on Christmas Island, affecting everyone’s mental health.

Another mother came and proudly showed us her little 2 weeks old daughter. We had supplied clothing for the baby and the whole family.

At 5pm we went into memorial service for the young Tamil man. This was held in a class room next to the visitors centre. It was a very moving and emotional ceremony. A Tamil priest co-celebrated the mass with Fr Peter. The Tamil priest personal knew the young man. The gospel was read in English, Italian, Arabic and Tamil.

We can do something: #MITAdonate #JusticeforRefugees

As some of you may have read in the past, my Mum, Margaret regularly travels from Ballarat to visit people seeking asylum at MITA, a detention centre in Broadmeadows.

Yesterday, my parents and I joined thousands of people around Australia who walked for Justice for Refugees. On their way home to Ballarat, Mum visited MITA and gave clothes and other items to 7 families. (I donated my Richmond scarf to a boy who is a keen supporter. He and his family have been in MITA for nearly a year.)

Mum has given me some further suggestions for donations for those who’d like to help those at MITA. Any assistance would be very much appreciated. Items can be either new or good quality second-hand.

Men, women and children

  • Jeans (straight or narrow legs only
  • T-shirts
  • Warm tops, jackets, night wear etc for winter
  • Hats, scarfs and glove
  • Shoes (no high heels)

Women and girls

  • Leggings
  • Headbands, hair clips, necklaces, bracelets

Children

  • Colouring, activity, and sticker books
  • Pencil cases, coloured pencils, textas

Other

  • Large pieces of material (about 2 metres) for making tops and dresses
  • Backpacks for children
  • Soft travel bags or sport bags for adults
  • Large handbags or bags to carry nappies etc.

If you are able to assist (and live in Melbourne or Ballarat), please get in contact with me.

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There are also a number of practical actions we can all take to both advocate for more humane refugee policy and to assist those refugees & asylum seekers in Australia.

* The wonderful Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has a list of ways you can get involved and also produce excellent fact sheets & mythbusters­ to assist you in discussing these issues.   *Amnesty International also has useful resources on refugee issues if you’d like to learn more.

* Write to your federal Member of Parliament: Oxfam have some tips on how to do this.

*Spread the word: host a screening or encourage friends, family and colleagues to watch Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea film. Doco is available to buy for $20 here: http://deepblueseafilm.com/­ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/deepblueseafilm

*Volunteer: there are a range of organisations that work to support asylum seekers and refugees. For example, you could tutor refugees in homework programs.  See Refugee Council’s list of organisations in your community.


We can do something: #MITAdonate

Community

As some of you may have read in the past, my Mum, Margaret regularly travels from Ballarat to visit asylum seekers at MITA, a detention centre in Broadmeadows.

After speaking to Mum last night I tweeted a request for donations of baby wraps and also books for a 17 year old interested in biology.  Thanks for all the rapid responses offering baby wraps. Much appreciated!

Mum is used to organising donations by herself. However, I’ve managed to get some further suggestions from her as many have asked me how else you can help.

Here are some specific requests/needs:

* maternity clothing

* children’s and very basic dictionaries

* colouring books with activities

* grammar books for people with English as a second language

* Some of the women have also asked for material and lace for making dresses & baby clothes.

If you are able to assist (and live in Melbourne or Ballarat), please get in contact with me.

——————————————

There are also a number of practical actions we can all take to both advocate for more humane refugee policy and to assist those refugees & asylum seekers in Australia.

* The wonderful Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has a list of ways you can get involved and also produce excellent fact sheets & mythbusters­ to assist you in discussing these issues.   *Amnesty International also has useful resources on refugee issues if you’d like to learn more.

* Write to your federal Member of Parliament: Oxfam have some tips on how to do this.

*Spread the word: host a screening or encourage friends, family and colleagues to watch Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea film. Doco is available to buy for $20 here: http://deepblueseafilm.com/­ Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/deepblueseafilm

*Volunteer: there are a range of organisations that work to support asylum seekers and refugees. For example, you could tutor refugees in homework programs.  See Refugee Council’s list of organisations in your community.