Refugee supporters rallied at Sydney Town Hall on July 24 to call for justice and permanent protection for refugees. The protest drew hundreds of people from Tamil, Bangladeshi and Rohingya communities.
The rally heard from NSW Greens Senator David Shoebridge, Renuga Inpakumar from the Tamil Refugee Council, Young Labor president Cian Galea, Bangladeshi refugee Abdul Yusef, Rohingya refugee Mohammed, Medevac refugee Joy, Ali Nayyef from Australian Refugees in Limbo and Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition.
Shoebridge called on the Anthony Albanese Labor government to end boat turnbacks and offshore detention.
Inpakumar called a “moment of silence for all Tamils killed by the Sri Lankan regime and all refugee who who died trying to seek safety from terror”. She marked the anniversary of Black July, when anti-Tamil mobs backed by the Sri Lankan government killed thousands.
Inpakumar compared the terror faced by Tamil refugees escaping Sri Lanka with the ease of recently removed Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s escape from the country. “Rajapaksa fled on a plane with money, his phone, his wife and other luxuries while refugees face long journeys on rickety boats without toilets or food.”
“Tamil and other refugees have no right to work, no access to medicare and their children can’t go to university because they are not covered by HECS,” she said. “We need permanent protection now.”
Galea said that Young Labor does not support the refugee policies of the Albanese government. He recalled when Albanese said “You can be strong on borders without being weak on humanity”, and said Labor has “not been strong on humanity”.
He criticised Labor for its complicity in locking up refugees in immigration detention for years, saying it gave the Coalition government “the cover they needed” to keep cruel policies in place.
Yusef said refugees “don’t come to Australia for a holiday — they come because they have problems in their country”.
Mohammed reiterated the call for permanent residency and citizenship for refugees. He said people are fleeing genocide in Rohingya and must be welcomed.
Joy said not enough people are talking about his “friends in Papua New Guinea and Nauru”. “They are human beings and they have been forgotten and locked up for more than nine years,” he said. “Release them now!”
Nayyef said the popular chant “10 years enough” signified “10 years of loss, 10 years of families being destroyed, 10 years of prison and 10 years without a home”. He played a recorded message from his daughter who asked: “When can I see my dad? When can I be with my dad? When can I hug my dad?”
He said he needs an answer from the Prime Minister immediately.
Rintoul said we need a “fundamental change of refugee policy” and to stop supporting regimes like Sri Lanka with technology, monetary and military support.
Protesters then led a lively march to Hyde Park, chanting “Free free the refugees”.