Just days after the latest — and largest — round of #KidsOffNauru protests, the federal government has said all children will be removed from Nauru by the end of the year.
Refugee rights organisations held mass protests in Sydney and Melbourne on October 27, with protesters chanting: “Kids off! All off! Close the camps now!”
Mehdi, an Iranian refugee on Nauru, addressed the Melbourne rally by phone. Mehdi said: “Five years of suffering and torture. We are the walking dead.”
Abdul Aziz Adam, speaking from Manus Island, thanked rally participants, saying "your protest means a lot to us".
He explained that the situation on Manus Island is getting "worse and worse every day", with refugees’ mental health deteriorating and many people not eating and simply staying in their rooms.
Victorian Greens MLC Huong Truong, whose parents were refugees from Vietnam, reminded the crowd that the problem is not limited to what is happening on Manus and Nauru, noting there are currently ten children being held in Melbourne's Broadmeadows detention centre.
Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association secretary Craig McGregor said "unions should speak on behalf of those who are most oppressed" and help build mass support for refugees.
In Sydney, Father Rod Bowyer told the rally: “The question will be asked what did you do on the battle for Nauru and I hope each and every one of us can raise our voice and say we gathered, we shouted, we voted and we sent a message that never again will we allow the denial of human rights to be a viable political strategy.”
The latest wave of protests, coupled with opinion polls, medical professionals speaking out, legal battles, the Wentworth byelection result and growing opposition within the Coalition to the government’s handling of the situation, have forced Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make this concession.
This should be celebrated as a win for the movement and the work of tireless refugee campaigners.
However, many of the children will remain in detention in Australia and, under the existing Migration Act, will never be resettled in Australia.
Hundreds of other refugees will remain on Nauru and Manus Island.
Activists are also continuing to pressure Qantas to follow the lead of other international airlines and refuse to take part in deportations.
Qantas Please Take a Stand for Safety Seekers activists rallied outside Qantas’ AGM on October 26.
Activist shareholders moved a motion calling on Qantas to review its policy on the forced transfer of asylum seekers and refugees. However, the majority of shareholders and the board voted against it.
Further refugee rights rallies are being planned with Teachers for Refugees walking out of school on November 20.