March to target WTO hypocrisy

Issue 

BY SIMON BUTLER

SYDNEY — Federal trade minister Mark Vaile's confirmation on October 30 that the November 14-15 ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been moved to the site of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games in Homebush has not altered the plans of protesters. One of the major protests during the meeting will be the Free Movement of People March on the evening of November 13.

The protest will highlight the contradiction between the appalling treatment that the Australian government metes out to refugees and the government's adherence to the neo-liberal "free trade" doctrines enforced by the WTO. The main slogans of the march will include "Freedom to move and freedom to stay", "Move against racism" and "Free the refugees not free trade". The protest is demanding an end to the Australian government's policy of mandatory detention for asylum seekers.

The demonstration has been endorsed by a range of refugees' rights groups, trade unions and solidarity organisations from around Australia. The Greens and the National Union of Students have also backed the protest.

According to Jo Ball, a Sydney-based activist and an organiser of the demonstration, one of the inspirations for the march was a similar march that took place in Genoa, Italy, as part of the protests against the G8 meeting held there in 2001. "The march in Genoa mobilised 60,000 people on the day before the 300,000-strong protest against the G8", Ball told Green Left Weekly.

The global justice movement needs to make the link between the unfair trade policies of the WTO and the plight of refugees, Ball added. "The WTO promotes an 'open borders' policy for multinational corporations, whereas in Australia borders are closed to refugees. We want to highlight the hypocrisy of the world's governments: they demand the free movement of capital but deny the free movement of human beings who are fleeing war, torture and persecution."

"The other important aim of the march is to broaden the idea of who 'deserving' refugees really are", explained Ball. "The definition of a refugee should include people seeking an escape from poverty. All human beings should be able to move across borders for whatever reason they see fit."

The Free Movement of People March will begin at 5pm, November 13, at the Sydney Town Hall Square. The first hour of the protest has been billed a "festive convergence" in which people are invited to bring along their musical instruments, perform street theatre and set up stalls. A "soap box" will be available for anyone who wants to give an impromptu speech.

At 6pm, there will be a march through the city to the offices of the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.

[For more information, phone Eleanor on 0412 479 793, Jo on 0403 907 827 or send an email to <jenkster@yahoo.com>.]

From Green Left Weekly, November 6, 2002.

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