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.