BY TAMARA PEARSON
SYDNEY — Sister Susan Connolly has counted 22 lies about refugees that have been spread by the federal government, she told the "People vs Philip Ruddock" public meeting held in Granville Town Hall on February 20.
Organised by Free the Refugees Campaign (FRC), the people's inquiry into the Australian government's refugee policies heard a broad range of speakers give testimony describing their experiences, knowledge and views on the situation that asylum seekers in Australia face.
Reza Wakil, a refugee who fled Afghanistan, was in detention for nine months. He described how he felt deprived of dignity while in detention. Having only a temporary protection visa means he cannot bring his family here, leave the country or study. Wakil urged people to join the FRC and try to change the government's policies.
Arsalan Nazarien, an FRC member who maintains contact with refugees in detention centres around the country, announced that 200 Afghan refugees in the Woomera centre will go on another hunger strike if their demands are not met.
Keysar Trad from the Lebanese Muslim Association stated that a royal commission is the only place that Australasian Correctional Management guards can be made to reveal what goes on in the detention centres without breaching their contracts.
Castro Abdullah, a visiting trade unionist from Lebanon, pointed out that no-one would sell all their personal belongings and then throw their children into the sea.
Karen Iles from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union reaffirmed her union's support for the campaign for refugees' freedom. Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition also spoke.
FRC spokesperson Roberto Jorquera told Green Left Weekly after the meeting, "While we hear ad nauseam from Howard and Ruddock, the Australian people are denied the right to hear from the victims of its vicious policies. Today we heard direct evidence from the other side, from the people who have been there or have been involved with them. The 'children overboard' lies have shown that Howard and Ruddock can't be trusted."
[For more information about the Free the Refugees Campaign, phone Roberto on (02) 9687 5134. Join the email list at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.]
From Green Left Weekly, February 27, 2002.
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