Western Sydney march for refugee rights

Wednesday, September 20, 2000


SYDNEY — The next step here in the campaign for refugee rights is the September 23 rally to be held through the streets of Parramatta. The march, organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC), is using the Olympic period to highlight the inhumane treatment of refugees by a government that won the Olympic bid with its claims of a superior human rights record.

The September 23 rally will assemble at Parramatta's Church Street Mall and march on Liberal MP Ross Cameron's office before heading for the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs offices, then returning to the mall for speakers.

RAC activist Kate Carr believes the large S11 protest against the World Economic Forum meeting in Melbourne showed a willingness of tens of thousands of people to stand side by side with the world's oppressed and against the machinations of the corporate elite.

"One of the results of global corporate tyranny is the displacement of tens of millions of people who have no choice but to seek refuge. Yet the same governments that promote globalisation deny basic human rights to refugees", Carr said.

"Globalisation is all about the freedom of capital to move from country to country in order to seek out the cheapest labour costs", explained Carr, who is also a member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance. "Yet the freedom of people to move from country to country is denied. The rights of corporations are valued more highly than the rights of human beings."

Actions on September 15 for indigenous rights also lent weight to the campaign for refugee rights. The rally for indigenous rights at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Victoria Park, Sydney, heard activist Isobel Coe express solidarity with the plight of refugees.

"We have got nothing against boat people. Aboriginal people are still dealing with the first load of boat people that arrived over 200 years ago", Coe said.

RAC believes that this kind of solidarity is crucial to winning refugee rights. RAC activist and Democratic Socialist Party member Paul Benedek also highlighted the need to involve workers and trade unions in the campaign.

"Government racism attempts to divide 'Australian' and 'foreign' workers and thus place barriers in the way of union solidarity for refugee rights. Some in the union movement have fallen for the lie that refugees are the enemy and have taken 'Australian' jobs", Benedek said.

"Unions have even gone so far as to help government officials to 'flush out' alleged illegal immigrants from workplaces. This alliance with the same forces that are hell-bent on winding back conditions and union rights weakens the ability of trade unions to oppose employer and government attacks.

"Instead of allowing racism to divide worker against worker, unions should be fighting to defend conditions for all — including migrants and refugees. It's the old slogan: an injury to one is an injury to all."

The RAC rally will hear speakers from Amnesty International, the Muslim Refugee Support Group, the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees plus RAC activists, asylum seekers and others. To join the protest on September 23, assemble in Church Street Mall, Parramatta, at 1pm. To contact RAC call Paul on 9687 5134.