BY TERRICA STRUDWICK
& RUSSELL PICKERING
BRISBANE — On October 19, 90 people gathered in King George Square to remember the 353 men, women and children who drowned in October 2001 while trying to reach Australian shores aboard the SIEV-X. The people aboard the unseaworthy fishing boat were refugees, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The crowd heard passionate speeches from refugees who are on temporary protections visas. They expressed their deep sadness at the loss of their loved ones — not only those who drowned, but also those in their home countries who have died because of war and greed. Many refugees feel sad because they want to grieve but they don't even have graves to put flowers on, said one speaker.
Australian Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett expressed his outrage at the inhuman refugee policies of Prime Minister John Howard's government. ALP senator Claire Moore said the Howard government was more concerned about a boat load of sheep than what they were about the people who died aboard the SIEV-X.
In Perth, 200 people gathered at the Perth Cultural Centre on October 18 to commemorate the second anniversary of the SIEV-X sinking. It was organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN). An effigy of PM John Howard stood atop the amphitheatre, with numerous bodies wrapped in traditional Muslim burial shrouds lying at his feet.
Speakers included Sue Hoffman from the West Australian Refugee Alliance, Grant van Riessen from the newly formed No Fly Zone, which campaigns against the forced deportation of asylum seekers, Victoria Martin-Iverson from RRAN, Rosemary Hudson-Millar from the Uniting Church and Judy Watson from the Coalition Assisting Refugees After Detention.
From Green Left Weekly, October 29, 2003.
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