A rally on June 13 for refugees to be freed from detention — which was refused legal authorisation in the New South Wales Supreme Court, ostensibly due to coronavirus restrictions — proceeded safely, with protesters wearing masks and staying in groups of 20. The action formed part of a national day of action on refugee rights.
The police had taken the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) to court arguing its protest would be unsafe. This is despite regulations allowing 50 people to gather in pubs and 100 at gyms in NSW, not to mention the hundreds who gather at schools and shopping centres every day, mostly without masks or other protective gear.
James Supple, representing RAC, told the socially-distanced rally of about 100 people that freeing refugees “is urgent and can’t be postponed for the several months it may take before health regulations are changed”. He said the mental health crisis inside the detention hotels such as the Mantra Hotel and the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, the Kangaroo Point hotel in Brisbane and Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney require immediate action and that the voices of those being detained must be amplified.
Hundreds of refugees from Manus Island and Nauru are being held in Australia and many have not received the medical care for which they were brought here. The federal government has refused to release them into safe accomodation during the pandemic, despite the high-risk detention environment.
[To help defray the activist group’s fines, including court costs, click here.]