Points system to force detainees to do “useless” activities

By Matt Harvey

Changes to the circumstances of refugees being indefinitely detained in Carlton’s Park Hotel mean they will now be forced to attend activities and English classes in a new points-based system.

Previously detainees have received 60 weekly points which could be used to obtain certain extras and privileges such as chocolates, nuts, phone charge for a month, and cigarettes from the canteen.

However, now detainees are being allotted 25 weekly points with activities and classes earning them two further points per engagement.

A chocolate bar is generally three to five points, requiring a minimum two to three classes just to get one, whereas cigarettes are 26 points. A month’s phone charge will set you back 30 points, or 15 classes/activities.

If they don’t buy the month phone charge they have no way to contact the outside world.

Kasra Mirabi, an Iranian refugee, resides in The Park Hotel with 35 others who have been in detention for around eight years.

Mr Mirabi was detained on Christmas Island after fleeing political persecution, eventually being moved to Manus Island, Brisbane, and now The Park Hotel in Melbourne.

“The [Iranian] government had activities and I was against the government which forced me to leave the country. If I was stuck in my country then maybe I’d end up in long-term detention, or get tortured, or maybe the death penalty. But the same thing has happened in Australia,” Mr Mirabi said

The news came from Facebook profile “Park Prisoner”, an anonymous account from one of the current refugees who has been detained in the hotel.

“You tortured us enough for a crime we didn’t commit, we endured enough, you took our freedom away for eight years. Isn’t it enough punishment for seeking asylum?” the Park prisoner wrote.

Refugee Action Collective member Chris Breen said the classes were “useless” and worried about the impact the system would have on their mental health.

“They’ve been in there eight to nine years, they can’t do anything with any of the classes they attend and often it means they have to wake up really early. And obviously people have lost the motivation to do anything after eight or nine years,” Mr Breen said.

The activities are put in place as a form of control and regimenting detainees’ lives.

“They can control us more than before, they want to keep us active but it’s another type of torture for us because it’s now eight years and it’s not going to change anything going to any activities,” Mr Mirabi said.

Many of the detainees have trouble sleeping, finding themselves awake at night and needing to sleep during the day as a result.

 

“Some people are sleeping differently, they force them to wake up and earn the points. And it’s annoying them to go to the activities and they have to change their schedule to earn some points. To get a phone charge to have communication with the outside,” Mr Mirabi said.

 

Mental health is a real concern for those still in perpetual detention, medical treatment, and doctor’s visits are basically non-existent.

Mr Mirabi takes antidepressants and pills for sleep and he said if he didn’t take his pills he had panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and stress.

He is not the only one struggling to make it through.

“I was a witness to so many of my friends dying and I witnessed so many of my friends going insane. They had so many mental health issues and they committed suicide, there were hunger strikes in 2015 and so many beatings happened,” Mr Mirabi said.

The refugees face an uncertain future, stuck in a limbo-like existence in Australia or possibly moved via Australia’s refugee relocation program to most likely to the United States or Canada.

But Mr Mirabi said the federal government needed to take responsibility.

“It’s a very bad idea to force them to another country because a third country cannot have any responsibility for what the Australian government has done to the refugees,” he said.

“Even the people who got released into the community, they are not receiving any proper treatment.”

Refugee Action collective will be hosting a solidarity rally on June 20 at the State Library of Victoria on Swanston St at 2pm •

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