Refugees start 3-day protest outside home affairs ministers office

March 21, 2024
Refugees protested outside home affairs minister Claire O'Neil's office
Refugees protested outside home affairs minister Claire O'Neil's office. Photo: Chloe DS

Refugees and supporters gathered outside the electorate office on March 20 of Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs, in Oakleigh for a three day sit-in.

They demanded permanent residency and showed solidarity for the thousands of refugees living on temporary visas, some for more than 11 years.

Protesters chanted "Clare, Clare, is not fair!" and  "Albo, Albo, stop this limbo".

Kurdish-Iranian refugee Fahime Asgari told Green Left that "Clare O'Neil has not once come out and spoken to us" and asked her to "do something" for refugees".

Asgari explained the problems with living on temporary visas: "We don't have the right to work, my daughter couldn't attend university after finishing school, universities are demanding over $40,000 per year to study as an international student, we can't afford that."

She has a small cleaning business, but has been stuck on a Bridging Visa E for 11 years. "We work, we pay tax but we are not treated equally in society." 

Asgari had to flee Iran after being persecuted because of her Kurdish identity. 

The sit-in was organised by the 12,000 Captive Souls group, a reference to the estimated 12,000 refugees currently on bridging visas. It was supported by the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

It is one of many protests Iranian refugees have organised outside O’Neil’s office. 


Protesters demanded permant visas for all refugees
Protesters demanded permant visas for all refugees. Photo: Chloe DS

Iranian refugee Shahram Foladpour said that "after Mahsa Jina Amini was murdered … the Australian government told the Iranian community here that they support us and admitted that it's not safe there”. 

“But they never talk about ‘us’, the people who have lived here for more than 11 years with no access to full rights, to live and work freely in Australia,” Foladpour said.

"The only thing we are asking for is permanent visas for all refugees and asylum seekers."

Parisa, a Kurdish refugee, said O’Neil shuts down her office whenever a rally is organised. “She doesn't want to talk to us about our serious situation.” 

"We will keep coming back, until O'Neil speaks to us."


Stop torture
Stop torture. Photo: Chloe DS

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