Rally opposes refugee deportation

Eighty people rallied in Dandenong, an outer Melbourne suburb, on February 11 against the planned deportation of Santharuban, a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who sought asylum in Australia after the defeat of the LTTE in 2009.

The LTTE fought for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka. Former members of the movement continue to be "disappeared, detained, tortured, and harassed by the Sri Lankan security forces", according to a statement by the Tamil Refugee Council (TRC), which organised the rally.

Umesh, a Tamil activist, told the rally the United Nations Committee Against Torture is considering Santharuban's case. Yet the Australian government is planning to deport him on February 22.

TRC spokesperson Aran Mylvaganam said other Tamils are likely to be deported with Santharuban. There are 1400 Tamils currently facing deportation after being refused protection visas.

Tamil activist Lavanya told the rally that some Tamils have been held in Australian detention centres for more than eight years. There are also about 2000 Tamils in Melbourne on temporary protection visas.

Rohingya refugee and National Union of Workers organiser Shawfiqul Islam spoke of the need for unity against deportations.

Red Flag editor Ben Hillier spoke of the military occupation of Tamil areas, which he observed on a recent visit to Sri Lanka. Other speakers included NUW delegate Viraj Dissanayake and Close the Camps Action Collective activist Gaye Demanuele. A message was read out from Greens MP Nina Springle.

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