Refugee advocates blast government

February 26, 2011

An angry group of about 20 protesters held a snap action for refugee rights on February 18 outside the Perth office of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

During the protest, Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) members covered the DIAC sign with a new message that proclaimed it “the department of child abuse”.

The protesters called for the Australian government to respect the human rights of refugees and put an end to mandatory detention of asylum seekers' children.

Several activists held up signs saying “shame”.

Protesters were especially angry at DIAC’s callous treatment of a nine-year-old asylum seeker, Seena Sheikhdost.

Seena’s parents drowned in the December 15 shipwreck at Christmas Island.

He was flown to Sydney for his father’s funeral on February 17 but was then taken away from family members by DIAC officials and flown back to the Christmas Island detention centre.

Seena has since been released into “community detention” and is now living in a house in Sydney’s west with his aunt, uncle and cousin.

RRAN activist Marcus Roberts called DIAC’s actions “one of the most disgraceful displays of abuse of a child by a government”.

Another RRAN activist, Victoria Martin-Iverson, said: “I do not think I have seen a more tragic, a more absurd moment in Australian politics.

“I should think this quite fairly and rightly fits the definition of torture. It’s treatment that goes beyond the merely inhumane and crosses over into the thoroughly, the unremittingly, the assuredly disgusting.

“The campaign of the refugee rights movement in this country does not end when mandatory detention ends, this campaign ends when the abusers of human rights are brought to justice for their crimes against humanity.”

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