Thousands say Bring Them Here, protest five years of Liberal, Labor cruelty to refugees

Thousands of people march for refugee rights in Sydney on July 21. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

A wave of humanity that gathered in Sydney’s Town Hall swept past the NSW Labor headquarters and crashed against the Department of Immigration offices.

Thousands of voices defiantly chanted “Bring Them Here” in increasing speed and volume.

"Bring them here: — in other wards, to offer every person in Australia’s detention centres protection and safety in Australia and the ability to apply for it elsewhere, in countries such as New Zealand. We must start dismantling this cruel, inhumane system.

 

 

Photos of twelve people who were killed by the detention system in the past five years.are held up at the front of the march — and at marches and outside politician’s offices across the country.

 

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Sydney. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Five years since that dark day – July 19, 2013 — when then Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in an act of political expediency designed to flank the Liberals from the right on refugee policy in the lead up to the 2013 election, implemented a policy that meant no one who came to Australia via boat seeking asylum and protection would be granted it by Australia.

It was a policy swiftly adopted and accelerated by the Liberals. A policy that has killed 12 people.

Reza Berati who was murdered by guards smashing a rock against his head.

Hamid Khazaei who died from a cut in his foot and was denied adequate medical aid.

The most recent Fariborz, died after he could not access the mental health support he and many others had pleaded for years for him to receive.

Many names. Many stories. Many loved ones left in despair and grief. Many avoidable deaths. Many more to come if this cruel policy is not defeated.

It is a policy thousands of people across Australia are actively opposing.

The protests begun on Thursday 19 July with dozens of protests outside politician’s offices around the country including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s and Labor’s Anthony Albanese.

Albanese, possibly laying the groundwork for leadership challenge, has recently shifted further to the right on refugee policy and now supports boat turn-backs.

Over the course of a few days protests happened in Geelong, Parramatta, Blue Mountains, New England, Sydney, Tasmania, Melbourne, Great Lakes, Shoalhaven, Bendigo, Albany, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Cairns and more in a reported fifty actions.

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Brisbane. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

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Perth. Photo: Alex Salmon

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Cairns. Photo: Carla Gorton‎

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Geelong. Photo: Combined Refugee Action Group/Facebook

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Melbourne. Photo: Matt Hrkac

 

The diversity of locations reflects pockets of resistance to the detention system growing across the country .

The words of Iranian-Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani who has been fighting for freedom for years inside Manus Island detention centre, so often silenced by the Australian government, were finally given voice.

“I’m talking with you from Manus Island after five years of living in harsh conditions and too much suffering. I would like to thank you for standing for humanity today. It’s truly extraordinary and so valuable to see many people here who care about your human family and our shared moral values … We must continue putting the government under pressure until the day when they officially announce the end to this cruel offshore processing policy.”

 

A young Tamil woman, Avi Selva, spoke powerfully at the Sydney rally about the ongoing persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

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Tamil activist Avi Selva speaks at the Sydney rally. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Just days before to the rallies, a Tamil family was forcibly separated by Border Force. A mother was left crying outside Villawood detention centre as her partner was deported to Sri Lanka and subsequently arrested on arrival.

The connection and influence of Australia’s refugee policy on Trump’s much-condemned immigration policy was stark in the speeches and placards.

Children are still behind barbed wire fences on Nauru — conditions arguably worse, but less reported, than those in the US.

There were dozens of diverse groups, placards and messages weaving together to from the clear message: Close the Camps, Bring Them Here.

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Sydney. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Perhaps one of the most pertinent was hand painted on a massive piece of cardboard that needed three people to hold up: “Together We Make Change”.

We must continue gathering and crashing this wave of humanity, compassion and belief in basic human rights against this cruel detention system until it is broken.

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