Refugee rights supporters gathered outside the Park Hotel prison on January 30 to demand that every detained person be immediately released and to permanently close all detention centres.
About 400 people attended the event organised by Campaign Against Racism and Fascism. There was a big police presence, including mounted police which surrounded the hotel where the refugees are being held.
Fanoush and Imran, Medevac refugees who had recently been released after eight years of detention, gave speeches about the power of humanity while looking at their friends still detained in the hotel.
The rally called on the federal government to reinstate the policy whereby all asylum seekers could be processed in the community and for full citizenship rights rather than bridging visas and temporary protection visas.
It also demanded the government provide detainees with access to special services to help repair some of the damage done over eight years of detention.
Ah Don Khan Aukmt, a 24-year-old Rohingya refugee, who was detained for seven years in Papua New Guinea and is still in the Park Hotel, asked the crowd not to forget those still imprisoned.
More than 46 refugees have been released in the past few weeks: 12 refugees are still detained at the Park Hotel and there is no information about the progress of their cases.
Aukmt spoke to the rally via his phone. “One third of my life has been spent behind fences. I have had refugee status for 6 years, yet the Australian government keep me locked up and continue to torture me. What is my crime?
“The Rohingya are some of the most persecuted people on the planet. I am stateless. I am not safe in my country and I am not safe here. This is not a hotel, this is a prison! Where are my human rights? Where is my justice? When will I be safe and free?”
He urged people not to forget about his brothers locked up at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane and in other detention centres. “We need you to keep fighting for us. You give us hope and power.”
Lavanya Thavaraja from the Tamil Refugee Council and the Migrant Workers Centre said that the temporary bridging visas given to those refugees who had been released “extends the uncertainty and lack of freedom” and is a “continuation of the cruelty”. At least 30,000 people are on insecure bridging visas.
“We must never forget that brutalisation of migrants and refugees are intimately connected to our daily struggle with the capitalist system, which constantly produces violence, oppression, nationalism and racism.
“We should unite, refuse to accept this unequal treatment of refugees and show what worker solidarity means.”
Greens federal leader Adam Bandt urged people to fight the system which is based on dehumanising some people. “Do not allow our government to put refugees out of sight, out of mind,” he said.
School strike 4 climate organiser Anjuli Sharma spoke strongly against the government’s human rights abuse of climate refugees.
Australia is the only country in the world where mandatory detention is enshrined in law. Its policies, supported by both major parties, violate basic human rights by, for example, funding prisons in poorer nations like Nauru and PNG.
[The next rally to demand all Medevac refugees be freed is on February 13 at 2pm at the State Library. It is being oranised by Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).]