Refugees, researchers condemn new offensive against refugees in Britain

The Park Hotel in Melbourne where refugees were detained. Photo: Andrea Bortoli

Researchers in Britain and refugees in Australia condemned the new offensive against refugees in Britain and across Europe at a forum organised by Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) on May 9.

The online forum “Australia’s refugee cruelty exported: fighting offshore detention from Nauru to Rwanda”, heard from refugees who endured Australia's cruel refugee regime and British-based experts who discussed the global consequences of Australia’s offshore detention policies and directions for the refugee rights movement.

A pre-recorded video by Elahe Zivardar, an Iranian artist and documentary maker who was detained on Nauru, criticised Britain’s decision to adopt Australia’s offshore detention policies. Zivardar ended her message with an appeal to “do everything we can to stop this nightmare before it is too late”.

Dr Hannah Lewis, senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Sheffield, spoke about her research into the failure of deterrence policies, both in Britain and elsewhere. She contrasted the groundswell of support for the “Homes for Ukrainians” movement with the recent move by the British parliament to introduce offshore processing in Rwanda, as part of a suite of harsh new immigration policies.

Reza Mousavi, recently released from the Park Hotel in Melbourne, described his experiences in offshore detention. He said he experienced and witnessed “real cruelty”, including being denied medical care and suffering psychological torment inflicted by the guards. He said offshore detention is “disrespectful to human life” and a means of “hiding the real cruelty far from home”.

British refugee rights campaigner Neha D’Souza analysed the Australian government’s tactics to bolster its cruel immigration policies, describing as “extreme” its demonisation of refugees, the moral crusading language to describe people smugglers, media black-outs and the militarisation of the borders.

D’Souza outlined examples of grassroots activism in defiance of the British policy, including unionised workers threatening legal action over “boat push backs” in the English Channel. D’Souza is working to build relationships between refugee rights activists and British and Australian MPs to develop accountability “across the pond”.

[The next forum of the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) is on May 30.]