Refugee advocates rallied in Sydney and Melbourne in a snap response to the first group of 40 refugees flown to Nauru to be held indefinitely on September 14.
Protesters in Sydney rallied outside the department of immigration offices and heard Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Sydney branch secretary Paul McAleer pledge to “stand side by side in solidarity” with refugees.
He read from an MUA resolution that was carried unanimously in February that said refugee policy, “which is largely based on racism”, must be changed to “accept the legal rights of refugees and provide community housing and care while their claims are investigated”.
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon described the ongoing debacle in parliament, where Labor politicians “admitted they would use necessary and reasonable force to get the refugees off the planes and onto Nauru”.
Children Out of Detention’s Dianne Hiles said the day was, “one of the blackest days in Australia's human rights”. She said the plan to dump people, including children, on Nauru was designed “with the specific intention of damaging them”.
Australian Tamil Brami Jegan said the situation in Sri Lanka, where many refugees may soon be deported, was worse than ever. “Former Tamil Tiger women, we're hearing, are being raped by the army … There is a disappearance once every five days, in Sri Lanka. And thousands of Tamil prisoners are still being detained with no international mechanism to protect them.”
Pitt Street Uniting Church's Ian Pearson and Refugee Action Coalition members Ian Rintoul and Nick Reimer also spoke.