Shame Howard on Tampa Day

Issue 

BY PIP HINMAN

August 26 marks one year since the Coalition government refused to allow the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa to deliver those asylum seekers it had rescued to Christmas Island — it marks one year of the “Pacific Solution”.

Refugees' rights activists around Australia aim to make August 26 a day of protest against the government's policy. Paul Benedek from Sydney's Free the Refugees Campaign told Green Left Weekly that FRC is calling on people to wear black armbands on the day to symbolise their anger at the government's inhumane policies.

“If it wasn't for Captain Arne Rinnan's determination to make sure those refugees were looked after, the Tampa crisis last year may have become just another blip on the radar of Canberra's human rights abuses”, said Benedek. “Instead, it was the trigger for many to start organising against the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.”

Last year, $500 million was allocated to the “Pacific Solution”. This year, $3 billion has been devoted to “border protection”, money that could be better spent on resettling refugees in Australia, said Benedek.

While some 4000 refugees, including children, remain detained without trial in remote detention centres at Woomera and Port Hedland and in the offshore detention centres in Nauru and PNG, nearly that number of people, who have been declared refugees, face deportation when their temporary visas expire. This is another reason to protest on August 26, said Benedek.

Already a number of networks have indicated their support for the idea of shaming Prime Minister John Howard on Tampa Day. They include Rural Australians for Refugees, Children out of Detention (ChilOut); Fortians for Refugees; the Progressive Young Hazaras; Australians Against Racism; Public Servants for Refugees, ACT; Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific; the Socialist Alliance; the Multicultural Council (NT); the Mary MacKillop Institute for East Timorese Studies and several refugee-rights groups from around the country.

“August 25 has been declared Refugee Sunday by many churches”, Benedek pointed out. “If pupils and teachers, workers and neighbourhoods donned armbands for the day it would create quite a stir.”

For more information or to order black armbands ring Paul Benedek on 0410 629 088 or email <freetherefugeescampaign@yahoo.com>.

From Green Left Weekly, July 10, 2002.
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