Residents fined $8000 over refugee solidarity action

May 9, 2020
Police harass activists expressing solidarity with refugees
Police harass activists expressing solidarity with refugees. Photo: Rilka Laycock-Walsh.

Dozens of police officers were waiting to break up picnics planned by concerned locals outside of Kangaroo Point Central Hotel and Apartments on May 8 according to Refugee Solidarity Meanjin.

The safe picnics were in response to the silent protest by more than 120 detainees on the balconies of the apartments. The refugees, transferred under Australia’s Medevac scheme, had been held in offshore detention for the past seven years before being moved to Australia.

The hotel has been in use as a detention centre for close to a year by the federal government and private security company Serco. Currently, there are more than 120 refugees in indefinite detention.

The situation has been condemned by human rights bodies around the world.

For the fourth consecutive week, refugee activists had planned to peacefully picnic or exercise along the footpath adjacent to the makeshift prison in a show of solidarity.

Despite the eased restrictions which allow for picnics, police were intimidating and fined at least 6 protestors $1334 each. They detained many more.

One of the attendees, who wished to remain anonymous, said the officers were aggressive. “I was maintaining correct social distancing practice. I was sitting on a picnic rug with one other person, taking up a small amount of space on the edge of the footpath ... The [police] were looking for an excuse to fine the people.

“We will be back, we will not stop coming back until these innocent and inspiring people are free to join the community”.

The refugees unfurled a two-storey banner from the hotel’s balcony which read: “No crime, 7 years in detention” while the police issued fines and move-on orders.

Farhad, one of the refugees in the Kangaroo Point hotel, spoke about their situation over a teleconference call: “For the past 7 years our dreams were taken from us, we were exiled to Manus Island, we were tortured mentally and we lost some of our friends at Manus. Last year some of us were taken here, thinking it was the end of the torture. Now we are locked up here in this situation, especially at this crazy time and it seems that no one in power that can make decisions about our future have any interest in taking action.”

“All of you are going through a tough time, somewhat locked up and I’m so sorry for that, hopefully now some Australians can begin to understand what we have gone through for the past 7 years.”

“What we are asking for in this moment, is to forget about the political game that you [those in power] have put us in. This is a dangerous situation, why are you not letting us be amongst those that care about us?”

Video from the April 17 action

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