It was July 19, 2013 that the then-Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared that no refugee arriving by boat would ever be settled in Australia.
Although Rudd’s assertion proved to be incorrect — thousands have been settled here, albeit without permanent protection — it marked a dramatic turn to the right by Labor.
Eight years later, the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) Queensland reported 233 refugees and asylum seekers are still in limbo on Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and 88 refugees are in indefinite detention in hotels or immigration detention centres such as the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA).
To mark eight years since the so-called “PNG solution” — and eight years of torture and detention — hundreds of protesters demanded freedom for refugees outside BITA on July 18.
The protest was co-organised by RAC and Refugee Solidarity Meanjin. It demanded the immediate release of detainees and for permanent visas and a safe future for all asylum seekers.
Voices of Refugees led the speeches.
There was a heavy police presence at BITA and refugees inside the building had to hide their support for the protesters.
Outside, the police carried out frequent “compliance” inspections of cars and harassed protesters.
The protesters also expressed solidarity with “501 detainees”: people who have faced a criminal penalty, served a sentence and are awaiting a deportation.