Refugee Assistance Centre opens



MELBOURNE — In a sign of growing support for refugees' rights, the Dundas Street Centre in Thornbury — an offshoot of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Footscray — has begun operation. The centres are not funded government funded and are run by volunteers.

According to the Northcote Leader, 450 people attended the centre's opening, including cartoonist Michael Leunig and author Arnold Zable. Most were moved to tears when Iraqi refugee Amal Hassan told of fleeing Iraq to be with her husband, only to have the boat she was on sink, killing 353 people.

Hassan was among the 40 who survived by clinging to the floating bodies of their dead friends for 24 hours before being rescued by a fishing boat. There is mounting evidence that Australian naval ships were in the vicinity.

Northcote mayor Vince Fontana officially opened the centre. He said the council "fully backed" the centre. Project co-ordinator Kon Karapanagiotidis, who established the original centre in Footscray last June, said the centre was not affiliated with any religious, political or racial groups and was entirely dependent on hundreds of committed volunteers and donations. He noted that since opening the Footscray centre, more than 2000 asylum seekers and detainees have been helped.

For more information about the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, phone (03) 9689 5075.

From Green Left Weekly, July 31, 2002.
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