“Stop trampling rights to win votes”; “Stop breaking laws to win votes”; “Stop racist policy risking lives” and “Stop the freeze on asylum seekers' rights” were key slogans at a rally organised by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations on May 8, as part of a national day of action.
The 300 protesters heard from Chaman Shah Nasiri, a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan who had suffered in the now-closed Nauru detention camp under previous Coalition prime minister John Howard's Pacific Solution policy.
The Hazara people are "marginalised and oppressed in both Afghanistan and Pakistan”, he said. “My father was killed and other family members were persecuted. Most of our people who came here experienced similar oppression.
“For us as refugees, who are desperate, we have no other option but to come here as boat people.
“I am happy to see people here standing up for those people in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. It is not a matter of colour or religion; we are all human beings.”
Protesters wore lifesavers' outfits, as a visual way to spread their message. The action ended with the crowd forming a huge human life-ring.
In Melbourne, 100 people also formed a life-ring on St Kilda Beach as part of the day of protest.
Meanwhile, in Perth, the Refugee Rights Action Network organised an overnight vigil outside the Perth Immigration Detention Centre, next to the airport. Sixty people expressed their solidarity with the 30 to 40 refugees currently detained inside.
More than a dozen activists stayed through the night. They chanted “asylum is a human right, free the refugees!'' and talked to detainees through the fence.