Sydney: Hundreds call for refugee protection

Protest for refugee rights, Bondi neach, Sydney, may 8. Photo from Tamil National.

More than 350 people participated at the human ring in Sydney on May 8 and urged Australian government to be a lifesaver and protect refugees. They called the politicians not to score political points by punishing the most desperate of people.

Amnesty International Australia organized the human ring at Bondi Beach to show the politicians on all sides that they’ve got it wrong — Australians do care about saving lives and they won't accept punishment of people to win votes.

There were also speeches by human rights activists at the event.

Australia has a proud history of helping refugees fleeing war and persecution. But in 2010, in the lead up to a Federal election, our politicians are trampling on this record and punishing these most desperate of people to score political points, AI Australia said.

They also urged the Australian government not to discriminate Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seekers by freezing the processing of their applications.

AI in its campaign of “Be a lifesaver — protect refugees”, invited people of Australia to say no to:

- The prolonged detention of men, woman and children on Christmas Island

- A discriminatory freeze on processing of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum applications

- The reopening of the “hell hole” Curtin detention centre

- Fear mongering and political point-scoring by all parties at the expense of asylum seekers

Australia from this April suspended applications from Afghans and Sri Lankans, saying the situation in their war-weary homelands had improved and fewer nationals of these countries would likely be considered refugees in the future.

Month after month, the Sri Lankan government is extending emergency. Though Sri Lanka said it's relaxing the emergency regulations, none of the regulations introduced to emergency laws in 2005 under the prevention of terrorism section were relaxed.

The military still holds the police power. Arrest and abductions continues in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.

Hundreds of Sri Lankans and Afghans have made the perilous sea journey to Australia this year seeking asylum, many of them in wooden fishing boats departing from Indonesia and other Asian countries.

The United Nations also raised concerns about Australia's decision to freeze asylum applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, saying it could leave people in detention for prolonged periods, without clear guidelines or effective judicial oversight.

Under the new rules, asylum seekers from Afghanistan will be unable to apply for a visa for six months and Sri Lankans for three months and will have to remain in detention for this time.

[Reprinted from Tamil National