A TRANS* activist whose Australian visa was cancelled for reasons that are still unclear threatened to chain herself to a chair at Sydney Airport, supporters say, when officials tried to force her onto a plane back to the US.
Monica Jones, a student at Arizona State University, arrived at Sydney Airport last Friday to complete a placement with the Scarlet Alliance, the peak body for Australian sex workers confirmed.
A subsequent court hearing heard a film crew from Channel 7’s Border Security program filmed the incident.
Jones had previously been in Australia twice this year, once for Melbourne’s AIDS 2014 conference in July and again in September to begin her student placement examining Australia’s response to HIV among sex workers.
Scarlet Alliance migration program manager Jules Kim told the Star Observer that Morgan was denied legal representation or the opportunity to contact anyone until her visa was cancelled and officials had booked her on a return flight that afternoon.
“Monica rang me from the boarding gate and said ‘should I handcuff myself to the chair?’,” Kim said.
“I could hear her saying [to officials] ‘you wouldn’t be doing this if I was a white woman’ and she is such a fierce advocate and kicked up such a fuss they couldn’t put her on the plane.”
Jones faced a Sydney court on Monday where the Immigration Department revealed she was on a migration alert list of people posing a possible threat to Australia.
Judge Rolf Driver scheduled another court appearance for next week but Jones, unwilling to remain in detention, opted to voluntarily leave Australia and continue the case via video link.
She is currently contesting a charge in Arizona for manifesting prostitution.
However, Kim said mystery surrounds why she is on the list at all, given sex work isn’t a crime in Australia.
“If you look at the reasons people are put on a migration alert list they are pretty serious and given Monica hasn’t been convicted she doesn’t meet that criteria,” she said.
Kim added that she feared Jones’ treatment was more to do with her race and being trans*.
“It’s ironic this court case was on World AIDS Day when we combat stigma and discrimination against people with HIV yet Monica was stigmatised and discriminated against while trying to learn more about Australia’s successful grass roots approach to tackling HIV,” she said.
Questions were also raised about why Jones was originally granted a visa, if authorities thought her a risk, and how Channel 7 was aware of her impending arrival.
“It seems very much that the situation was set up so they could have an episode of Border Security,” Kim said.
“It seems like the result was a foregone conclusion.”
Kelly Glanney, the spokesperson NSW-based trans* advocacy group Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust said there needed to be more transparency around Jones’ removal.
“It opens up the question of whether Australia is blocking people entry for crimes overseas that are not crimes in this country,” she said.
“If she wasn’t given due process and treated fairly and equitable that would disturb me.”
Jones has also received support from trans* actor Laverne Cox, star of TV hit Orange Is the New Black.
“I just felt like I had to be here to lend my voice in whatever platform I have to make – more people will hopefully pay attention to this case,” Cox said.
Channel 7 declined to discuss with the Star Observer whether they had prior warning of Jones’ arrival in Australia, if Jones was fully aware of her rights when it came to being filmed and if they intend to air the incident.
The Department of Immigration and Border Security have also been asked to detail why Jones was barred entry to Australia.
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