By LEILA DRUERY
Last week I visited Villawood Residential Housing – a detention facility for families in immigration detention. Officially I was there on behalf of ChilOut, but unofficially I was there as a friend of Ranjiny, a pregnant mother of two who will give birth on January 6.
Ranjiny and her two children had been assessed as refugees, spending a year living in the Australian community, but were then re-detained on the basis of a secret negative ASIO assessment, which they could not defend themselves against.
Ranjiny came out from her house to meet me on a park bench. As she walked towards me I could see the pain and discomfort etched on her face – moment’s later tears were running down her face. “There are so many problems, I don’t know what to do, no-one is listening to me.” I told her I would listen.
As we talked, her children circled around her, obviously affected by her tears. “I have to be strong for them, I don’t like to cry because I know they get sad too … They also get sick when I’m sick … Sometimes they don’t go to school as they are too worried.” And they have much to be worried about.
Ranjiny is suffering from extreme back pain and has had trouble sleeping for weeks. She also has dangerously low iron levels, but she’s unable to swallow the medication provided and it makes her sick. When she asked for smaller capsules she was told, “Everyone has those tablets so you will too.”
Ranjiny described going to the doctors as a daunting experience, “I feel like people have told my doctor I am a terrorist because that is how I am treated… this is how I’m made to feel.”
Doctors requested in writing that detention guards not wave the metal detector over her belly, as it might be harmful to the baby, which was promptly ignored. Ranjiny tells them “There is nothing in there but my baby. Please stop harming him.”
Ranjiny doesn’t know what will happen when she goes into labour or what will become of her two young boys. She has been told that “someone” will care for her children while she is in hospital. But who that someone is will be decided on the day.