Students protest for refugee rights




Secondary students across the country took action in protest at the government's handling of the refugee crisis on the MS Tampa, taking part in school walkouts and rallies organised by the socialist youth group, Resistance.

In Sydney 80 high school students and refugee activists protested on September 5, taking their anti-racist message to the city streets.

The protesters marched first to Australasian Correctional Management, the corporation which runs the refugee detention centers, then to the offices of Prime Minister John Howard, where police prevented them burning an effigy of immigration minister Philip Ruddock.

In Canberra, 300 people defied bad weather on September 7 to rally for refugee rights, in action jointly hosted by Resistance and the Refugee Action Collective.

After hearing from Neville Williams of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy speak of how indigenous people were refugees in their own land, the crowd marched on Liberal Senator Margaret Reid's office.

High school students in Adelaide and Wollongong also took the message of refugee rights out of school and into the city, chalking pro-refugee slogans over city streets.

In Melbourne, James Crafty reports, 150 mostly high school students assembled on September 5 to fight the government's racism.

Armed with a cardboard boat quoting the national anthem, "For those who come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share", students gathered on the steps of Flinders Street Station before marching through the city chanting "Refugees in, racists out".

At Nike's superstore, protesters staged a sit-in, Resistance member Diana Haywood explaining the links between the company and the plight of refugees: "When refugees get let out of the [detention] centres, they aren't entitled to the dole, most can't speak English. They want to be able to earn money to look after their families but they can't get work except from corporations like Nike who pay as little as $2 an hour."

From there, the crowd moved on to the Federal Court building, where civil libertarians were putting a case that the Tampa asylum seekers should be granted protection in Australia.

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