Forum condemns Labor’s racist refugee policies

March 21, 2024
Protesting for Palestine in Gadigal/Sydney on March 17. Photo: Peter Boyle

Palestinian refugee Adnan Mansour told a public forum on March 18 that federal Labor must “start seeing Palestinians as humans”.

He contrasted the welcome given to Ukrainian refugees with the treatment of Palestinians at a forum organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC Victoria).

Mansour, who has a Ukrainian partner, said he had no objection to Ukrainians receiving visas and said Palestinians are just as worthy.

Australia had granted then suddenly cancelled visas for a number of Palestinians, leaving them stranded in various airports. Some of these have subsequently been reinstated.

Mansour was just 40 days old when his family was expelled from their home in Haifa in 1948. They fled to Lebanon where, luckier than most, they did not have to live in a refugee camp.

However, they still faced discrimination. Lebanon did not allow refugees to work and Mansour’s father had to find work in Iraq.

The Arab states did not welcome Palestinian refugees. Palestinians were massacred in Jordan and Lebanon.

Mansour was sponsored to come to Australia in 1969. He said he felt welcome then, but today Palestinian refugees encounter hostility.

Jana Favero from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre told the forum that the government’s approach to refugees depends on their skin colour and religion. Refugees from Ukraine are treated differently to those from Palestine or Afghanistan, she said. Labor had some good policies on refugees, she said, but they are only being implemented very slowly, if at all.

Favero said the granting of permanent visas to people on temporary protection visas is very slow. Thousands of others, who arrived after an arbitrary date in 2013, have no prospect of ever gaining permanency.

She said Labor should not have sent 39 refugees to Nauru, urged more public protests, and called for more refugee voices to be shared.

David Glanz, from RAC, spoke about the situation for refugees in Nauru, PNG and Indonesia, who are not allowed to find safety here. He agreed that protests can be effective, citing Labor’s back down on UNRWA funding, and its reversal of at least some of the recent visa cancellations.

Glanz and Favero criticised the government and Opposition racist scare campaign, following the High Court ruling on indefinite detention.

Glanz said the released detainees had already served sentences for any crimes they may have committed.

Favero said that 16,000 people are released every quarter from Australian prisons without politicians creating a “big fuss”.

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