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1st Feb. 2014: 24 hours in camp

It was early morning, 4.30 am. One of the CSO's (Centre Security Officers) opened the door without knocking and shone the torchlight onto my face. I answered him: ‘Two’ - we have head counts twice a night, once at 11-12 pm and the second one at 4-5 am. He was not happy with my answer. He put the light on my wife’s face anyway, and banged the door very hard as he left. This indicates the mood of the officer. If he was in a good mood he would have knocked on the door and he would have closed the door gently.

After that I was unable to sleep, but I stayed lying down until 6 am. I was thinking about my past. I always feel sorry for my wife and children because due to me they are facing such a hard time. I can’t explain what it is like waking up each day with a heavy heart and to see the person whom I love suffering and know I can't help her.

Not long ago was my young son’s birthday. We had spoken to him and with our daughter. She is just starting to speak. The questions that came from them were so hard for me to answer. They asked me, ‘Why can't we be with you?’, ‘Don't you love us?’, ‘Why are other kids with their fathers and mothers and we aren't?’ These questions were still playing in my mind and I was felt totally helpless. I got up and went outside.

There were very few people about because it was Saturday and kids were not going to school. I saw Mr. K. He was sitting in a chair with a cup of tea and watching TV in front of the dining hall. Each day at 6.30 am on SBS they have Hindi news so I went there and watched the news with him. There was nothing of importance in the news. We didn't have anything to talk about. He went to his room to read his holy book, so I came back to our room and read some Bible verses. But I don't know, I was not feeling peaceful. I was feeling that there's a big stone in my chest.

I went to the client kitchen and made breakfast for my wife. She had only just got to sleep properly. I came back with breakfast and put it on the table and went to the computer room to use the internet. I answered some of my friends' email, read news from Nepal and India and got information about cricket. These are the subjects that interest me. In the past I used to watch Test match cricket for days, but these days I can’t stay watching it for more than 30 minutes. Even reading for more than 30 minutes, I can’t do. It was almost 9 am when I came out of the internet room. Where to go? What to do?

A few kids were playing in the grounds. I was watching them. One of them is a disabled boy from Burma. He came up to me and gave me a hi-five, it made me happy. I feel he has some bond with me. He feels scared with other people. On the other side of the ground I saw some very young girls. They were doing something. I felt sorry for them, maybe they also had the same problems as me. One single Iranian man came and sat with me. He asked, ‘Are you happy?’ I looked at him and shook my head. That man had come with us from Darwin. He had problems with his wife and now they are separated and his wife is in the community. He has one son but can't meet with him. We sat together and kept watching the kids.

Mr. K came and said, 'Lets go for activities', so we went gardening. The garden area is small and we were more than a hundred people so there was nothing to do, other than water the flowers. After that we went to art-craft class but again there was nothing to do, just colouring 20 to 30 pieces of paper distributed amongst more than a hundred people. The activities in the camp are merely written on paper, not managed at a grass-roots level. This is especially so on weekends and on public holidays when there are no senior officers or DIBP (Department of Immigration and Border Protection) employees on duty. Even on weekends the canteen is usually closed before lunch, it's supposed to be open from 11 am-5 pm. We stayed in the activities room until 12 noon without doing anything - we had to stay because otherwise we would not get signed off. If we are not signed off we won't get any points, and without points we can’t buy anything from the canteen.

After midday, my wife and I went with Mr and Mrs K. We have a special area where we like to sit and talk. Mrs. K can't speak English or Hindi, so she hasn't many friends. She speaks only her language: we understand a little bit, if she speaks slowly. But she can understand Hindi. In the past Mr. K had a trucking business in India so he has a good knowledge of South Asia. We enjoy each other's company, but it's also very hard for him because it’s more than 2 years that they've been in the camp.

At 12.30 pm we went to the dining hall for lunch. From last week they introduced packed food for my wife because the doctor had said that due to her morning sickness she can take food out of the dining hall. I brought food to her in our room, which we shared with each other. At 2 pm we again went to the area where we often sit with Mr and Mrs K. Today we were joined by two other ladies; one from Pakistan and one from Burma. Because we have been together for more than 4 months, we don’t have much to talk about, we know each other and the conditions of each other very well. But we don't have any other options to kill time, so everyday we gather together. We all understand Hindi so it is easy to talk. As usual we fed the pigeons at 3-4 pm. After that my wife went to rest. Mr. K and I went to activities, on the weekends they run ‘family activities’ - again, just on paper - for 2 hours. They got everybody to sign.

At 5pm we gathered in the same area and had a cup of tea. Sometimes we talk about our experiences in other camps, sometimes we talk about officers and make jokes about them to try to make ourselves happy. Sometimes they bring people from the airport and keep them in a special compound. They are mostly Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and English. These people are also our topic of talk. At 6.30pm we went for dinner. I did the same as I did at lunch - taking food to our room for my wife. After dinner Mr. K and I usually go for a walk for 30 minutes and Mrs. K comes along with a Pakistani girl. We are usually joined by other people, they share their experiences of the day and we share ours. It doesn’t bring change to our lives, but still we do it. None of us know why, but sometimes it makes us happy.

Again at 8.30pm I went to the internet room to check the mail and answer my friends. I came back at 9.30. Everybody was sitting around, trying to find anything that might make us laugh, even for a minute. Many times throughout the day we try to forget our present conditions and make ourselves happy. We separated at 11pm and went to our rooms with one good thought - that next day we were going to church and Mr and Mrs. K were going to their temple. But we were unable to get to sleep. I was lying in the bed at 11.45pm when the SCO came for the head count.

I don't know when I slept.

S.R. is in mandatory detention at an Australian Immigration Detention Centre.