Online rally calls for refugees to be given safe haven

October 6, 2021
A rally on Tamil Genocide Day in Melbourne on May 16. Photo: Tamil Refugee Council

More than 300 people took part in an online rally organised by the Tamil Refugee Council (TRC) on October 2 to demand protections for refugees and ensure they are not deported to danger.

Aunty Shirley Lomas, a Gomeroi and Waka Waka woman, spoke about the similarities between the genocide from which refugees are fleeing and that suffered by First Nations people.

Abdul Nuri, who fled Afghanistan in 2002 and arrived in 2010, described the persecution of Hazaras in Afghanistan, saying: “They have suffered mass killings by extremist groups, their land has been stolen and their religious gatherings bombed”.

Nuri said the federal government had deported many Hazaras back to danger. He said many  Hazaras “had been denied visas and are badly exploited”, adding, “They need permanent visas and citizenship”.

TRC member Renuga Inpakumar explained why many Tamils have fled Sri Lanka. She said since 1948 Tamils have faced discrimination and violence. This reached its peak in 2009 when, in an act of "planned genocide", the Sri Lankan armed forces bombarded Tamil civilians who had gathered in a supposed no-fire zone.

This led to significant numbers of refugees trying to reach Australia by boat.

In Sri Lanka, many Tamils have lost their land, some to military bases. Hindu, Christian and Muslim buildings have been demolished.

A report by Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade claims that Sri Lanka is now safe for Tamils. But human rights organisations such as the International Truth and Justice Project show that the army and police continue to abduct, torture and rape Tamils.

Inpakumar said that Tamil refugees in Australia on temporary visas live in fear of deportation.

TRC activist and union organiser Aran Mylvaganam criticised  the government’s "barbaric treatment" of the Murugappan family from Biloela, saying  overwhelming  public support has so far prevented their deportation. Other Tamil families on temporary visas have gone into hiding, he said.

Mylvaganam, who is running for the Senate for the Victorian Socialists, said "racism is used to divide us" and that "the government wants a pool of workers living in fear".

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