A national day of action was organised by the Home to Bilo network on March 5 to mark the third year since Tamil asylum seekers Priya and Nades and their two children, Kopika and Tharunicca, were taken from their home in Biloela, Queensland, and detained on Christmas Island.
Rallies were held in Perth, Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Darwin, Hobart, Newcastle and Biloela.
In Sydney, speakers included student Renuga Inpakumar, Rachael Jacobs from Teachers for Refugees, actor Michael Caton, Alison Battisson from Human Rights For All and Labor Senator Kristina Keneally.
“Refugees are often the first victims of war and state terrorism. But they are often portrayed as criminals,” student Renuga Inpakumar said. “As a young Tamil woman born and raised in Australia, it disgusts me to see how a government can transfer refugees to remote islands, detain children and adults indefinitely.”
Jacobs said she was glad Keneally was attending so she could hear from the family's supporters. She added that Labor needed to know that those supporting the release of this family were just as concerned about all detained refugees. “This is not just about one family. This is about ending our appalling treatment of refugees.”
The protests called on the federal government to release all refugees and asylum seekers into the community and give them full citizenship rights.
Jacobs said that the refugees who have been released into the community are still vulnerable because “Australia is not offering a pathway for most of those to settle here.
“Many are being forced back to Papua New Guinea or Nauru. They are being denied access to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees so they can’t even apply to go to a third country. They might not be behind fences but they are still trapped by uncertainty and insecurity.”