Cellist and refugee activists block Melbourne street

October 28, 2017

Refugee advocates occupied Melbourne’s Spring St on October 25 in solidarity with the asylum seekers of Manus Island, who have been abandoned by the Australian government.

The action was organised by Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), Disrupt 2017 and Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

A cellist played a Kurdish poem put to music by Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been detained for four years on Manus Island.

Supporters stood in a large circle holding red ribbons connected to the cellist as other refugee activists stood on the Victorian Parliament steps holding a banner that read: “We Rise With the Men on Manus”.

WACA spokesperson Sumarlinah Raden Winoto said: “There is a looming humanitarian emergency as the government begins to close Manus and abandons all responsibility. The government has created the present crisis and now they turn their backs on the same acutely vulnerable people whose lives they’ve destroyed.

“We cannot fathom the damage that has already been done and fear for their mental health as they continue to live in a state of uncertainty. This horror needs to end now by resettling the men of Manus into safety.” 

With the Manus Island detention centre officially closing on October 31, essential services have been cut off. The men in the detention centre are being denied protection and are being encouraged to either move to the Lorengau transit centre or return from where they fled.

WACA spokesperson Callum Simpson said: “We must all start to acknowledge that we are all complicit in the torture of refugees. Our tax money is going into the funding of the private corporations running the camps.

“Any minor inconvenience people face this morning should be felt in comparison to the years that have been stolen from the people on Manus. We see it as our only option left to get our government to listen.

“Like other national crimes, Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum will not be easily lived down — and we will fight for them to be held accountable.”

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