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<nettime> flotilla2004.com
.: s0metim3s :. on Thu, 3 Jun 2004 23:00:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> flotilla2004.com


There are currently boats travelling 4,000
kilometres to Australia’s internment camp on
Nauru. This is the most recent culmination of a
series of protests against successive Australian
governments’ policies of interning undocumented
migrants.  The boats are presently at the halfway
mark and, weather permitting, expected to reach
Nauru by June 20.  The crews have been threatened
with imprisonment for crossing borders without the
proper papers.  The importance of the internet to
the communication and character of noborder
protests is here amplified by distance, threats of
violence and the risks of sea travel.


Some background

It is well known that since 1989, successive
Australian Governments have administered a
notorious policy subsequently referred to the
‘mandatory and non-reviewable detention’ of all
those who arrive by boat and without papers.  This
was a response to the (by international
comparison) extremely small rise in undocumented
boat arrivals after 1989 - many from the Middle
East, Vietnam and Cambodia - whose internment was
often successfully challenged through legal

The post-1989 regime of border policing
effectively and over time legislated that the
refugee determination process exist outside the
rule of law in the form of ministerial and
administrative dictate and be discharged through
concentration camps and military intervention.

It is also well known that in 2002, protesters on
both sides of the barbed wire scaled the fences at
the Woomera internment camp in South Australia and
a number of escapes occurred.
<www.woomera2002.antimedia.net> Woomera, which
closed shortly after this, was emblematic of the
Australian Government’s strategy of interning
undocumented migrants in remote, rural camps as a
means of containment and control.  Woomera was
located 1,000 kilometres from the nearest capital
city (Adelaide) and, for a time, held the largest
number of detainees.

2002 was the culmination of four years of protests
by detainees in Australia’s internment camps,
including hunger strikes, the destruction of
buildings, and mass escapes.  Many of those
protests were met with tear gas, riot police and
the use of chemical restraints.

Following this, the Australian Government shifted
its strategy toward a combination of ‘dislocation’
and electrification in an attempt to decompose the
protests against the post-1989 regime of the
camps.  The so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ was
introduced which established camps on Nauru and
Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) funded by the
Australian Government and managed by the
International Organisation for Migration.
Australian military vessels would forcibly remove
undocumented boat arrivals from territorial waters
and Australian islands, and transport them to
those camps in the Pacific.

In Australia, a new technology of internment was
constructed (such as at Baxter) which replaced the
grim (but scalable) coils of barbed wire and steel
fences with hi-tech, refined systems of electronic
barriers, surveillance and a greater reliance on
technological and chemical restraint.  (The
Government has also budgeted for another of these
hi-tech camps in Broadmeadows, Melbourne to
replace the current, smaller one in Maribyrnong.)

The result of these changes to the architecture of
the camps were immediate: the protesters outside
Baxter in 2003 were unable to get close to or even
within sight of any of those imprisoned there,
many of whom had been relocated from Woomera.
Whereas Woomera2002 had managed to break with the
symbolic character of protests by those outside
the camps; Baxter2003 signalled the restoration of
such, and subsequently ushered in a decline in the
impetus of the movements against the camps.


Flotilla 2004

Having circulated as an audacious, but regarded as
impractical, strategy after Woomera2002, the idea
of shifting the protests against the camps to the
northern waters of Australia became an imperative
with the inauguration of the ‘Pacific Solution.’
After Baxter, Hopecaravan <www.hopecaravan.com>
distributed a call for boats to travel to the
internment camp on Nauru.  That voyage is
currently underway, with boats presently located
at the halfway mark, and expecting to reach Nauru
by June 20.

The Nauru Government which - given its current
fiscal woes and recent economic bankruptcy -
relies on the continuing funding of the camp as a
source of revenue and employment, has threatened
to suspend maritime convention (the Law of the
Sea) and forcibly seize the boats.  They have also
threatened to imprison the Flotilla crews as
undocumented boat arrivals.  This has not deterred
the crews, who nevertheless require ongoing
support and communication.

Regular updates are available at flotilla2004.com,
as are crew b-logs, instructions on sending text
messages to the crews, and detailed background

The Australian Government, for its part, has
adopted the pose of detached benevolence - an echo
of its previous, farcical contention that it was
not legally liable for the treatment and
internment of those in the camps because they were
outside Australian jurisdiction.  Facing with an
upcoming election, and as the Flotilla boats were
cheered off from eastern coastal cities, the
Government announced that under half of those
detained on Nauru would be granted visas, and
recently granted a visa to the remaining detainee,
Aladdin Sisalem, on Manus Island.

These shifts follow a determined hunger strike
last year on Nauru, after which the Government
promised that it would review its rejection of the
applications for asylum by those imprisoned on
Nauru.  <www.noborder.org/press/display.php?id=3>
The Government has, nevertheless, insisted that
its camps in the Pacific will remain, at a cost of
around $300, 000 per month.

Previously, the Government had refused to grant
visas to those taken hostage from the MV Tampa and
forcibly transported to Nauru. At the time, the
Government insisted that ‘not one of those would
set foot on Australian soil.’   It is abundantly
clear that the definition of who is a refugee and
who is not (or: who is subject to the regime of
the camps in order to classify people along this
axis) is defined by what the Australian Government
imagines to be politically advantageous at any
given time.

Those released from Nauru and PNG have expressed
concern for the fate and safety of those who
remain interned there.  The voyage continues until
the camps are closed.

Angela Mitropoulos
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.

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