It is estimated there are over 30,000 asylum-seekers currently in mandatory detention, or living in the community, who could be deported at any time. The Australian government has no qualms forcefully deporting refugees displaced by wars (in which Australia is partially complicit) back to imprisonment, torture and even death. 2015 has seen a marked rise in deportations and an upswing in Refugee Rights Advocates taking to the streets, the airports and the detention centres in resistance to this cruel policy.
What follows is intended as a LIVING (that is evolving) blog-post to help welcome people new to anti-deportation actions and make us all feel bolder and safer.
So, it you want to get involved and don’t know where to start … you’ve come to the right place!
1: JOIN A PHONE TREE: The Beyond Borders phone tree is particularly responsive. Drop them an email at email@example.com and include your nickname, mobile number, suburb (for carpools) and any additional skills or resources you might be able to bring to the mix.
It also helps to have your name on more than one phone tree, just in case one isn’t functioning at any given time, so also get your name down on the Refugee Action Collective’s list which lives here: http://rac-vic.org/subscribe/
2: PRE-PACK AN ACTION BAG: We never know when the government will trigger a deportation but we can always be prepared. Stuff a small bag with handy items (light weight weather proof clothing, low GI snacks, bottle of water, a torch and any medications you might need) and perch it near your door so you can grab it and be gone in a flash.
3: BUDDY UP: We’re big fans of the Buddy System in the Melbourne Street Medic Collective! We believe there is no safer way to protest … so spare five minute to check out this pro-tip. Also, if you have a whole bunch of friends who want to get involved in helping stop forced deportations maybe you could form an Affinity Group?
4: CAR SHARE: if you drive perhaps consider joining the aforementioned car-pool, or arrange with your friends to pick them up. It’s a good idea to plan the best route to the airport, and Maribyrnong and Broadmeadows detention centres before you leave.
5: SAY “HI”: When you arrive at the protest you are under no obligation to tell us who you are, but it certainly is nice and helps build camaraderie and teamwork if you know the nickname of the person you are standing shoulder to shoulder with on a picket line. We’re a friendly and welcoming bunch and will happily take the time to tell you what is going and to point out who is doing Police Liaison, Media, Legal Observing and Medicking for the action.
6: BRING YOUR SKILLS: You are not just another face in a crowd or simply another set of hands to hold a placard. We all bring something unique and excellent to a protest so have a think about what you could lend to the action. Are you super-hot on Social Media? Are you in a position to bring thermos flasks of comforting warm soup to cheer protesters on the gates at 4am? Are you magic on a mountain bike and happy to help out as scout for the day?
7: DEBRIEF: Always take time after an anti-deportation action to debrief. You are human and it is perfectly acceptable to be moved by the inhumanity of a system that is processing refugees in such a callous, industrial manner. After all, it is your empathy that compelled you to take a stand in the first place. Debriefing helps make sense of challenging experiences, and also helps us learn lessons so we can be even better at what we do at the next protest. You can always debrief with one of our Street Medics if you see us around, if not grab a coffee with a bunch of mates and talk about how you are feeling and how the action was for you. Check out our pro-tip about Debriefing if you’d like to learn more.
8: SLEEP: Sometimes we only get a few hours notice before a deportation takes place. The call could go out in the dark of night or in the cold hours of the morning. Whenever it happens we need to be sharp and be on our best game. Sleep deprivation is accumulative and leads to poor judgement, mood swings and slow reflexes, so when you get the chance to lie-in or go to bed early – give yourself permission to do so! That way you will have some sleep in the bank for when you need it.
Anyway, this post is intended as a welcome to those who wish to take a stand for refugee rights, and we hope it inspires others to join the movement against forced deportations. It is not exhaustive so please, don’t be bashful about leaving a constructive Comment below and contribute to our shared learning and objectives.