Painting by Pete Railand, Justseeds Collective

This is a toolkit specifically dealing with stopping deportation of asylum seekers, produced in Melbourne.

It covers practical, strategic and legal information to enable more effective anti-deportation actions and empower people involved with such actions to know their legal rights, think through effective strategies and campaigns, be prepared, and do so in ways that are sensitive to the needs and rights of refugees and detainees, and acknowledge how the migrant justice movement can better support indigenous sovereignty.

[Website last updated Jan, 2019]

Migrant Justice on Stolen Land

Supporting refugees’ rights should not come at the cost of continuing the dispossession of Indigenous peoples.

Throughout history borders have been arbitrarily drawn to separate nation-states, and these borders have dissected Indigenous lands and divided Indigenous communities.  In Australia, whilst the border encompasses the entire land body, its impact has been equally devastating, imposing on pre-existing boundaries that delineate hundreds of Aboriginal tribes, lands and ancestral customs.

In this settler-colonial state where Indigenous peoples never ceded sovereignty, reparations or treaties have never been made and the impact of colonial dispossession continues, it is important that we consider our demands for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees alongside recognition of ongoing colonisation and being on stolen Indigenous land. 

In so doing we can recognise that the organisation of nation states and borders has had devastating impacts on Indigenous peoples. We can work with Indigenous communities and address issues of colonisation, globalisation, neoliberalism, and the ways that these coalesce and intersect in their impact on indigenous peoples and migrants.  We can examine our language and actions and ask if they unintentionally demean Aboriginal sovereignty and reinforce colonial structures.  For example, slogans such as ‘we are all boat people’ makes completely invisible the Indigenous nations of this land.  We could think about what it means to say refugees are welcome.’ For while this undermines Australia’s abhorrent treatment of asylum seekers, it can reproduce problematic structures around agency and ownership.  One would usually welcome someone to a space where a greater sense of ownership and belonging is experienced, such as welcoming someone into your home.  Applying this to welcoming refugees into a country assumes a sense of ownership of the land.

There are many ways that we can be involved in migrant justice campaigns and support Indigenous sovereignty.  A powerful example of this has been the issuing of Aboriginal passports to asylum seekers.  During one such occasion, Uncle Robbie Thorpe (Gunnai/Gunditjmara) said: “The Australian government has no legitimate right to grant or refuse entry in this country… We are issuing passports to these men because it’s what any reasonable, humane society would do.” 

Sanction Australia

RISE: Refugees, Survivors & Exdetainees

Sanction Australia from participating in international refugee humanitarian decision making and human rights forums until The End of Mandatory Detention, The End of Refoulement and The End of Refugee Boat Turn back policies.

Australia’s unrelenting devotion to its politics of deterrence, built on the foundations of White Australia policy, racism and imprisonment demonstrates to us that this country is one that not only allows refugees to be used as political leverage, but applauds its on-going mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees. There is an extraordinary lack of transparency surrounding detention centres globally, with Australia becoming a well established leader of institutionalised torture and inhumane operations. Our suffering is not happenstance but is in fact the direct manifestation and primary objective of consecutive government’s’ “tough on boats” policies.


If someone is at risk

Why stop a deportation?

There are many reports of asylum seekers being returned to their country to be immediately imprisoned, killed or disappeared.

Sometime a successful action may only serve to prolong the deportation. However, in some instances, prolonging deportations has allowed further intervention of legal and political processes to take place resulting in refugee status being granted or extension of temporary protection visas.  Years of experience show that public campaigns and support can put pressure on the Department of Immigration to halt and prevent deportations.

Anti deport actions can be a powerful way to show solidarity with those detained and persecuted by the Australian government’s asylum policies

Stopping deportations are also part of a broader campaign for refugee rights and migrant justice.  Because these kinds of actions have the potential to attract media, they can illustrate public opposition to Australia’s asylum policy and raise broader issues around the right to seek asylum.

When to stop a deportation

 It is up to the person being deported whether they want their deportation to be physically stopped 

There are many reasons why people may not want to have their deportation protested or stopped.  Resisting deportations may put the person at further risk upon return to their home country, as well as within their current communities, and may be seen unfavourably by the legal system.

In most instances people don’t know when they will be relocated or deported.  Where someone is being deported out of Australia they should receive 72 hours’ notice, although this doesn’t always happen.  The department doesn’t need to give any warning to transfer people within mainland Australia, and because most people are transferred to Darwin or Perth to be deported it is difficult to know when they will be transferred.

A person may be relocated to an offshore detention center where they may be held indefinitely or deported from these offshore locations back to what is deemed their home countries.

A person may also be moved to another detention center within the country.  This can be done en route to offshore camps or to prepare them for deportation from a more secure location, disconnecting the detainee from their community, support and legal representation, as well as limiting access to their legal documents.

Often prior to deportation detainees are placed in isolation, have their phones confiscated and other means of communication limited.  Deportations often happen before the scheduled time. They may be flown interstate prior to date of deportation, and driven interstate to avoid anti deport actions on commercial flights.

What to do if someone is at risk of deportation

  • Connect people to reliable legal support. (see the list at the end for contacts to legal support)
    Detainees are at risk of being exploited by migration agents and legal professionals who abuse their position and provide poor legal advice as well as submitting incomplete forms whilst receiving large payments.
  • Collect their legal documents- including RRT/AAT decision, Court book, any communication from Immigration (some items may have been emailed to the person).
  • Ensure copies are made or items are scanned to those who are supporting the person.
  • Get them to authorise a trusted person to communicate with Immigration (form 956A, available online)
  • Get them to fill out a Freedom of Information form to be able to access all documents that may be needed (424A form)
  • Ensure detainee is informed of relevant information

Communication with detainee.

  • Who is their current legal representation?
  • Do they consent to anti deport action?
  • Are they aware of the risks?
  • Do they have a pseudonym they wish to use or do they prefer their real name?
  • Is there a photo of them that can be shared with protestors so they know who they are looking out for?
  • Can this photo be shared with media?

Inform them that they:

  • will likely be put in isolation pending deport
  • have phones confiscated and methods of contact limited
  • deport may happen before scheduled time

Confidentiality and respect

It is vital that where an anti-deportation action occurs this is done with the explicit consent of the person to be deported. 

In the instance of group deportations, it is still important to have communication with everyone and respect anyone’s wishes.

Just because you are assisting or standing in solidarity with someone’s right to seek asylum, does not mean you are entitled to access their lives or discuss their personal matters.

This includes disclosing mental health issues, self-harm, experience of sexual assault and medical conditions out of concern for the person or in order to draw attention to the conditions of detention.  Remember that a person who has been arbitrarily detained has already had their agency stripped away from them, and it is important to respect their stories and lived experiences with confidentiality.  Where someone is at risk of serious self-harm or suicide, attempt to seek professional or skilled help with consent from that person.


Specific campaigns against deportation of individuals or families have often invoked positive character traits or highlight outstanding circumstances.  The problem with this is that it establishes a good migrant versus bad migrant, reinforces notions of some people being worthy of seeking asylum whilst others not so worthy, and can harm others cases to stay where special circumstances may not be as politically appealing.  The point is, everyone has the right to seek asylum, and this can still be conveyed in ways that personalise and humanise the situation.



*This publication is intended to be informative only, not to incite any particular action or strategy.*

There are various means to obstruct a deportation, depending on where they are occurring.  Some transfers happen from detention centres, whilst others from community housing or from the department of Immigration and border protection, where some refugees have been scheduled for meetings and then taken to be forcibly transferred.   Actions can take place at any of these sites as well as airports and on flights.

Be prepared: Have a bag packed with needed items such as food, water, medication and a battery pack to keep your phone charged!  Think about other useful things you could bring (first aid, camera, lock ons, etc)

  • Make sure you are well prepared and if possible try and get some rest, take it in turns to be at the action.  Deportations usually occur when the people present are tired and leave.

When to make it public: In the past where anti deport actions have been made public DIBP have moved the deportation forward to avoid the action.  It’s best if a small group of people plan the action taking security measures and then alert others through phone trees, social media etc once established.

  • Make sure you are on an active phone tree
  • Maintain an updated phone tree

 Phone tree tips:

  1. Only activate a phone tree when situation is urgent, and it would be useful for people to come. For example, if it is suspected that someone is in a vehicle and there is no confirmation, there is no point getting more people to come.  It is however useful to let people know there may be a deport action coming up to allow time to be prepared.
  2. Make messages clear and only send crucial information out publicly. Keep in mind that those on the phone tree are not privy to the same information you have so include relevant context to be clear.
  3. It’s important to pace out use of phone tree and only activate when necessary. Repeated calls of urgency are stressful and like the boy who cried wolf.  In some cases deport actions may last over 48 hours and it may be more important to sustain the longevity of the action than have a lot of people there at once.
  • Make sure someone is in touch with legal. Just because someone is facing deportation does not mean all legal avenues have been exhausted, and it’s often legal injunctions which are successful.
  • Don’t make deports public until they need to be.
  • Share information evenly. Actions work best when there is cooperation.  However, be mindful of confidentiality when sharing information.
  • Think about the ramifications of your action and behaviour and how this could impact on detainees. Detention security and staff have been known to crack down on detainees following actions.
  • Talk to each other! Welcome new people, share information, check in.
  • This is not about us! Try and put your issues, feelings, personality clashes, etc aside. There is something more important to focus on right now!
  • Make sure at least one person with access to activate phone tree is reachable.
  • Personal safetyphysical and emotional/mental – is important, look out for yourself and look out for others.
  • Film- Make sure someone is filming any abuse by police, staff, etc
  • Comms: In deport actions sometimes there are hundreds of messages being sent through various groups and individuals. Too many messages are distracting and counterproductive. You will miss important information and people will lose interest. Only send concise and necessary messages to appropriate groups.

**One way could be to have Signal group for organising and planning, a group for people on site and a broader group to pool resources and information and people who can be called on to come out.**

  • Police may take your phone

-Write lawyers phone number/important numbers on your arm

-Lock down phone with password and disable reading messages when phone is locked so cops can’t read deport comms.



Strategies & tactics

 It’s important that strategy is discussed before and during the action and that everyone is clear on the strategy.

Strategies are dependent on location, but may include:

  • Stop & check vehicle- It is useful to have a photo of the detainee so everyone knows who to look out for.

BE CAREFUL- staff have been known to drive straight through protestors.

  • Parking vehicles in the way
  • Locking on to vehicles or gates
  • Gluing gate shut

Lock ons: Make sure to purchase good quality locks as cheap locks and chains are easily broken.  They can however be used to stall the deport.  Thumb locks are cheap and easy to carry on you for quick use, which may allow enough time for others to join the action and block the vehicle.


It’s useful to think about what roles people can take and discuss with each other who is doing what.

Bunnies A bunny is someone who is arrestable. If there’s more than one site (for example MITA has 3 entrances) try and have a bunny at each.  Bunnies will also need a support person to check in with them and ensure they have food and water and are safe.

**Be aware that getting arrested is not an option for everyone and does not display your level of commitment. The justice system and prison industrial complex is a racist one which impacts people differently and most adversely impacts Aboriginal people. **

Legal Someone should be in touch with the detainee’s lawyers

Media Spokespeople

Social Media- Once the action is there and set up, notify people to what’s going on via facebook, twitter, etc.  It’s good to have hashtags planned and a list of groups and handles you want to notify.

Film what’s going on for security purposes and evidence of abusive and dangerous behaviour by police, serco guards, and other employees.

Police liaison

Comms- With so many messages flying around, it could be useful to assign a comms role for someone who is keeping up to date with all messages and relaying important ones where necessary.

 Greet new people Greet and talk to new people and share important information.  If there are roles that need to be filled ask them what they would like to do.


Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) Broadmeadows

150 Camp Road, Broadmeadows.  Public Transport: Train to Broadmeadows (Craigieburn line) and then take the 902 Chelsea bus, hop off at Main Rd.

MITA has 3 exits, and they have been known to cut the fence too to make another exit.

MITA is undergoing expansion so exit are points subject to change


Stopping deportations on flights

In the case of deportation on public flights it is possible to book someone onto the flight (note that last minute flights are usually expensive).  Before the flight takes off draw attention to the forced deportation occurring on the flight, let passengers know, and alert staff that you will not allow the plane to take off under these conditions.  Refuse to take your seat until the person to be deported is removed.

-Have flyers prepared to distribute to passengers boarding the flight outlining the situation and asking them to take a stand.

Forcible transfers of refugees on flights are usually on Qantas or Virgin Australia flights. Charter flights are also used.  Skytraders is a charter company that is often used and has a large contract with DIBP.

You can visit the facebook page to pressure Qantas against deportations:


Other campaign strategies can range from letter writing, social media, twitter, rallies…etc   Letter writing is something that be done during meetings or actions. If you are writing letters, hand written and personalised letters are more effective.

Case study:  In February 2015 a 25-year-old Tamil man was to be transferred on a Qantas flight from Tullamarine airport to Darwin. One woman bought a ticket to board the plane, and others distributed flyers to the passengers on the plane. The woman refused to take her seat until the Tamil man was removed and was joined in protest by two other passengers on board the plane.  Eventually the Tamil man was taken off the plane, along with the 3 protestors.  He was later informed that he would not be deported in the near future, which allowed him to pursue further legal avenues to stay in Australia.


Legal Info

Summary of legal info

  • You must give your name and address to police but no other info to police
  • Police may search you
  • If you are being arrested ask the police to explicitly tell you the charge
  • Get the officers ID, name and rank.
  • You do not have to accompany police to the police station unless you are under arrest
  • If charged seek legal advice asap.
  • You don’t need to answer police questions, saying “no comment” may be the best response.
  • If you are arrested police may take your fingerprints but not your photo
  • You can appeal a court decision within 28 days


You must give police your name and address; other questions do not need to be answered.  It is an offence with a maximum penalty of a fine of $500 to refuse to give your name and address or to give false details to police.

If the police demand your name and address they MUST give you reasons for doing so. You should ask for these reasons.  The police must also tell you their name, identification number, police station and rank.

The police can search you, your possessions and your car without consent or a warrant if you are in a public place and they believe you are carrying illegal drugs, volatile substances, weapons, graffiti implements, or firearms.  They may also conduct a ”pat-down search” of the outside of your clothes and ask you to empty your pockets.

You do not have to accompany the police to the police station unless you are under arrest.

Being arrested

 Most charges laid at protest actions are relatively minor. As for other criminal charges, the police are required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed.  If you think you might contest the charges, try and get witnesses at the arrest and take statements.  It is also important to take the identity of the arresting police officer.

  • If you are a Koori you should tell the police immediately. The police must then notify the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and any local Aboriginal Justice Panel.
  • If you do not speak English – ask for an interpreter. The police should not conduct an interview without the aid of an interpreter.
  • If you are not an Australian citizen you have the right to contact your embassy or consular office.
  • If you are under 18 years of age the police cannot formally question you unless your parents, guardian or an independent person is present during questioning.

 Once charged, it is important to seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity.  You have the right to speak to a lawyer in a private space where you cannot be overheard by police.

 If property is taken from you during an arrest or at a demonstration, have a lawyer write a letter to police immediately, demanding return of the property.

You have the right to remain silent It is best to remain silent (aside from name and address) until you have spoken to a lawyer.  If the police question you before you have received legal advice, you should answer “no comment” to all questions.

Don’t answer some questions and not others as this may be used in court as evidence that you had something to hide.

Another reason to refuse to answer any questions is that what you say can be held against others arrested. NO COMMENT in solidarity for all.

Fingerprints and photos

In all but a few minor offences, you must allow the police to take your fingerprints if they believe that you have committed an offence.  However, you cannot be forced to have your photo taken. It is your right to refuse any request from the police for a photo.


If you are going to court for the first time and intend to plead guilty, inquire about the Criminal Justice Diversion Program, which could see you avoid a criminal record.

It is a good idea to obtain references addressed to the magistrate.

If you have pleaded guilty, you are entitled to a discount from the ordinary sentence, for saving the prosecution and the court the trouble of proving a case against you. You may still appeal a decision and apply for a lighter sentence if you plead not guilty and are convicted.

Jail sentences are rarely given for a first or minor offence. If you receive a short jail sentence (less than 12 months), appeal bail is often given. 

Court decisions can be appealed.  This should be done promptly. In Victoria, there is a 28-day period after the conviction during which an appeal can be lodged.  Almost every offence for which a person can be punished is capable of being appealed at least once to a higher court.


Possible charges at anti deport actions

Maximum penalties are rarely given and usually only where a person has many prior convictions or commits the worst type of that particular offence. An exception to this is the mandatory senting relating to assaults on an emergency service worker.


You are more likely to be charged under Commonwealth law for obstruction.  The State offence applies if you are obstructing a road or footpath which provides access to general public, and has a maximum penalty of $500.

The commonwealth offence however is more clearly aimed at demonstrations and has a penalty fine of up to $2,000. A defence to this charge would be that the obstruction was “reasonable”.


It is an offence to “beset” any premises, whether public or private, for the purpose and with the effect of obstructing, hindering or impeding by an assembly of people any person’s lawful right to enter, use or leave such premises.  The maximum penalty is a $1500 fine or three months jail.

Breach of the peace

You might get charged with breaching the peace where other charges are less applicable. The maximum penalty is $2500 or 6 months’ jail.

Resist or hinder police or other emergency services workers (including custodial officers)

This includes resisting arrest. It is an offence to assault, resist or hinder a member of the police force in their duty, or to incite someone else to do so.  “Resisting” means opposing by force and “hindering” means making the arrest or other police action more difficult to carry out. It doesn’t make a difference if the resistance actually prevents the arrest. The maximum penalty is six months jail or a fine of $2500

It is not an offence to passively resist arrest, or to run away before an arrest has commenced.  Passive resistance includes any nonviolent refusal to cooperate or comply with directions, but does not include linking of arms or holding onto other structures.

An arrest commences when the police officer makes it plain to you by words or other action that you are under arrest.


Under Commonwealth legislation, encouraging another person to comit an offence can make you guilty of the crime of incitement. Incitement generally has penalties of approximately half the maximum penalty for the crime being committed.

Mandatory prison sentences for assaults on emergency service workers

Harsh sentencing laws introduced in 2018 make a custodial sentence almost inevitable should you be found guilty of assaulting or injuring an emergency services worker. This also includes ‘custodial staff’. It is important to keep in mind that assault includes a threat to cause injury – verbal or non-verbal.

Recklessly causing injury and intentionally causing injury carry much heavier custodial sentences. The minimum custodial sentence a Victorian magistrate or judge can impose is 6 months for assault of an emergency service officer.

The minimum non parole custodial sentence for the much more serious offence of intentionally or recklessly causing injury in a circumstance of gross violence is 5 years.

There are some very particular circumstances where magistrates and judges can take into account impairment – be it mental or relating to substance abuse – but this is extremeley  limited, and is unlikely to apply to a prepared direct action.

Serious offences

Police have special powers at Airports, Federal Property and Federally ‘prescribed places.’  They can:

  • Conduct searches without warrants and use necessary and reasonable force to do so.
  • Request identification and demand proof of identification. (Having ID with you will make your life easier). It can be a serious offence to refuse to provide ID or to use a false ID in a prescribed zone.
  • Arrest without warrant if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that you are committing an offence or have committed an offence.
  • If you are lawfully under arrest officers can take your photograph or fingerprint you if the officer believes it is reasonably necessary to do so to identify you.
  • There are new amendments proposed for 2019, that would make contravening an identity check or move-on direction in an airport a protective service offence. This has not yet become law, but if it does, could attract a penalty of up to $4200 if you are found guilty.

    Aviation Crimes Act

    Interfering with an aircraft, the crew or staff of an aircraft or airport could be a very serious offence under the Aviation Crimes Act.  Some of the potential trigger points for serious charges include:

  • Any act of violence on an aircraft or at an airport
  • Any threats of violence or damage to an aircraft or any person on an aircraft
  • taking control of or exercising control over an aircraft
  • Destroying or damaging an aircraft or any facilities at an airport
  • Interfering with the safe operation of an aircraft
  • Disruption of services at an airport

    The above offences are taken extremely seriously and penalties range between 10 – 20 years of imprisonment.

    Migration Act

    A person who is found guilty of escaping from an immigration detention centre faces a 5 year jail penalty.

    Concealing or harbouring a non citizen under the Migration Act is a very serious offence. If found guilty, the penalty could be up to  10 years imprisonment or a $220,000 fine.

Australia’s asylum policies- some facts

  • Seeking asylum is not illegal, it is a human right
  • The world has forcibly displaced over 57 million people, the highest number since World War II. Most of the displaced refugees are hosted by non-signatory refugee countries.
  • Australia is the only country in the world with offshore processing and mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
  • Australia’s policy of mandatory detention is in breach of the UN refugee convention, of which Australia is a signatory.
  • The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture found that Australia’s asylum policies are in breach of International Law,
  • The average days in held immigration detention has increased steadily, with an average of 450 days (in Jan 2016).
  • More asylum seekers have died on Manus Island than have been resettled.
  • Australia boasts that it ranks first in the world in the intake of resettled refugees per capita. Australia’s resettlement program accepts refugees from other countries, most of whom have been processed by the UNHCR. The number of asylum seekers who arrived in Australia and were granted refugee status ranks Australia as 46th in the world per capita.
  • Studies have found that migrants actually benefit local economies.
  • The cost of running Nauru & Manus detention centres is $1.2 billion per year (roughly $1,800 per person per day)
  • Australia has been found guilty of over 150 violations of international law by the UN Human Rights Committee for its arbitrary indefinite detention of refugees.


Contacts & links

Refugees, Survivors and Ex Detainees. “Nothing about is without us”

Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre.
(03) 9413 0101  http://refugeelegal.org.au/

Refugee Advice and Casework Service.
(02) 8355 7227  http://www.racs.org.au/

Starry Norton Halphen Law firm (Rob Starys)
(03) 8622 8200  http://www.starylaw.com/www/home/

Tamil Refugee Council
0470 650 065   http://tamilrefugeecouncil.org.au/



On facebook: Anti-Deportation Snap Actions (Melbourne)




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