On April 11, in response to a rally by the far-right Australian Protectionist Party (APP) in opposition to refugee rights organised that day outside Villawood Detention Centre, activists held a protest in solidarity with the imprisoned asylum seekers and against racism .
Despite having only three days to organise, the "Unite Against Racism — refugees are welcome" rally drew 150 people outraged at the far right's message of hate and division. The APP's rally, with a far longer lead-in time, drew just 15 people. But the anti-racism rally's focus became the federal government when, two days before the rallies, it announced it was immediately suspending all new asylum applications from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
"The federal government has given the green light to the far-right racists", Paul Benedek, from Socialist Alliance, which helped organise the rally, told the anti-racism action. "While it is hard to think of a more cowardly act than taunting refugees who are locked up, as the APP are doing, the Rudd government has matched that cowardice by denying Tamil or Afghani people fleeing rape, torture or other persecution even the right to seek asylum."
Bala Ravi from the Australian Tamil Congress told of the ongoing horrific conditions for the Tamil people. Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition pledged to rip down the barriers between those inside the detention centres and those outside. Ignatious Mahendra, a visiting Indonesian activist from the Working People's Association (PRP) who built solidarity with the asylum seekers at Merak, led the crowd in chants of "refugees are welcome — racism no!"
Karl Amati, speaking on behalf of Community Action Against Homophobia, drew the links between victimisation based on race and sexuality. He highlighted CAAH's work winning rights for those seeking refuge from persecution based on their sexuality. Other speakers included Juan Campo from the Latin American Social Forum, Duncan Roden, Socialist Alliance candidate for Parramatta, Phil Bradley from the Greens, and Anne Picot from Stop the War Collective.
An impromptu march was held to take the "unite against racism message" to the other side of the detention centre, where the far-right rallied. Police lines blocked the protesters about 200 metres from the APP's small action.
The group pledged to rebuild the refugee rights movement in the face of increased refugee-bashing, starting with the April 30 speakout for refugee rights.