Ruddock confronted by anti-racists

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Ruddock confronted by anti-racists

By Luke Fomiatti

SYDNEY — Immigration minister Philip Ruddock held a "community consultation" here on March 1 at the Joan Sutherland Centre in Penrith.

A crowd of angry protesters, including members of Resistance, the Democratic Socialist Party, the Worker Communist Party of Iraq and various other groups, called for an end to racist refugee and immigration policies.

Under the watchful eyes of federal police, protesters chanted and held up pictures of refugees refused entry to Australia. Many people going into the meeting showed their support by raising their fists or by joining in the chants.

A number of protesters entered the meeting, having previously secured invitations. Ruddock had numerous displays containing dubious figures which he used to explain why Australia could not accept many immigrants and why a large proportion had to be highly skilled, rather than poor and under-educated.

An example of his "evidence" was a picture of Australia with big, multi-coloured arrows coming at it from all sides, presumably representing the "flood" of refugees "swamping" the nation.

A lively discussion followed his presentation. Someone would ask a question and Ruddock would evade it.

He implied that certain ethnic groups were disproportionately responsible for crime. When he said that most of those who applied for refugee status were in no real danger, the floor erupted.

All across the room, people stood up, shouting about people they knew who had been killed because the Australian government was not interested in their case.

People asked why the government actively supports the economic blockade on Iraq, but then refuses to help those harmed by it; why East Timorese refugees have been forced to leave; why the government imprisons "illegals" from Third World countries, but not the thousands of visa over-stayers from Britain and New Zealand. Ruddock refused to answer.