Refugee supporters protest against 'Indonesian solution'


"It not illegal to seek asylum", NSW Greens MP Sylvia Hale told a rally of about 100 people outside the Department of Immigration offices on November 2.

The rally was organised by the Sydney Refugee Action Collective to demand the Rudd government allow refugee boats to land in Australia so they can claim asylum.

"The Tamil people of Sri Lanka are suffering persecution in their own country", Hale said. "They are fully entitled to seek asylum here in Australia.

"Out of desperation, these people are risking their lives to come here in leaky boats. They should have their claims assessed here in Australia.

"This is an extraordinarily rich country. Why can't we do our bit to assist people in dire need such as these?"

Adrian Francis from the Tamil Youth Association said: "Why are these people coming here? In Sri Lanka, 300,000 Tamils are detained in camps, starving, with no access to proper food, water or shelter.

"It is important that we put pressure on the Australian government to show compassion, and not to offload these people into Indonesia. We should show that we care about them."

Jenny Haines from Labor For Refugees said many ALP members were appalled at the treatment of refugees under the Howard Liberal government. Now, they were equally opposed to the way asylum seekers are being treated by the Rudd Labor government.

Alex, a spokesperson for the Tamil asylum seekers on a refugee boat docked at Merak in Indonesia since October 11, addressed the rally by phone.

"Thank you to all those who are helping and supporting us", he said. "We hope that our voice will be heard around the world.

Brenda, a young refugee on board the boat, added: "Please help us. Allow us to complete our education in a safe country."

Refugee Action Coalition spokesperson Ian Rintoul said the refugee rights campaign was starting to build up again after recent events, including the deaths of asylum seekers from a boat that had sunk in the Indian Ocean.

He led the crowd in chants of, "No Indonesian solution! Let the boats land!"

Another rally was planned for noon on November 9, again outside the immigration department.