Seventy people rallied outside the Broadmeadows detention centre on February 18 to protest against the threatened deportation of Santharuban, a Tamil refugee.
Alex Bhathal, the Greens candidate for the upcoming Batman byelection, told the rally that Santharuban's life is in great danger if he is sent back to Sri Lanka, as crimes against humanity continue there and people previously deported have died.
Umesh from the Tamil Refugee Council reported that more than 1000 Tamils have been sent back to Sri Lanka. He said an investigation by Guardian journalist Ben Doherty found that a number of them have been tortured.
Umesh told the rally Santharuban had faced an unfair process when applying for refugee status, because the Australian government is too close to the Sri Lankan government. He said the United Nations Committee Against Torture is the last option for preventing deportation.
Rally co-chair Gaye Demanuele said the UN Committee Against Torture has asked the Australian government not to deport Santharuban. (The committee has since withdrawn its request.) She added that we need to be ready for direct action, including picketing the detention centre.
Steven Jolly, a candidate for the newly formed Victorian Socialists in the upcoming Victorian state election, said the "bipartisan policy of fear-mongering" about refugees is aimed at diverting attention away from the harmful impact of neoliberal policies.
David Glanz, representing the Refugee Action Collective, said it is necessary to "build a movement on the streets and in the workplaces" in support of refugees.
Jerome Small from Socialist Alternative reminded the rally of Martin Luther King's statement that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", and said that the treatment of refugees threatens unionists and all who stand up for human rights.
[Editor's note: Santharuban was deported to Colombo, Sri Lanka on February 22, along with four other Tamils.]