Refugees' rights protests planned

May 15, 2002


Plans for large protests on June 22-23 to "welcome refugees and end mandatory detention" are well underway in cities across Australia. Rallies and marches are already being planned for the weekend, which falls within World Refugee Week, in Adelaide, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Canberra, Darwin, Lismore, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Sydney and Wollongong.

Perth activists aim to mobilise 1000 protesters at the June 22 protest, which will meet at noon in Forrest Place. Working Voices Choir, directed by Bernard Carney, will perform, and activists will incorporate street theatre into the protest.

In the coming weeks, university activists are planning to set up mock detention centres on campus to expose the horrendous conditions in Port Hedland detention centre.

On May 16, the Refugee Rights Action Network at the University of Western Australia will host a meeting titled "Inside accounts of Australia's detention centres" featuring Katie Bronsnan who resigned from being an English teacher at Port Hedland.

Resistance members are also organising other activities on high schools to publicise the protest. The city-based Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN) meets every Tuesday at 6:30pm at Unions WA, 79 Stirling St, Perth.

In Melbourne, Arun Pradhun reports that Malcolm Fraser, Phillip Adams, Moira Rayner and Julian Burnside will be among the speakers at a public meeting to be held on May 22. The forum, called "Refugee rights are human rights", has been organised by the Victorian Alliance for Refugees, which rings together activists, unionists, religious and ethnic communities.

A May 16 Footscray "people's inquiry into detention" organised by Refugee Action Collective (West) is also planned.

Refugee Action Collective (RAC) activists will hold a May 18 protest outside the State Labor Party Conference. Wearing gags, activists will distribute leaflets that encourage ALP members to "break the silence" on refugees.

On May 31 at 5pm, RAC will blockade a forum organised by right-wing think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs which will feature anti-immigration academic Bob Birrel, right wing journalist Andrew Bolt and immigration minister Philip Ruddock. The "dialogue on immigration" will be held at 410 Collins St, but includes no pro-refugee representatives.

All these events will culminate in a week of action, organised by RAC. The week will be kicked off by the June 23 demonstration (part of the national actions). It will finish with a June 29 festival and protest outside Maribyrnong detention centre.

RAC meets every Tuesday at 6pm at Trades Hall. To find out more about these events, or to put in touch with refugees' rights groups in your city, phone Arun on (03) 9639 8622.

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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