701

Serious fears are held for the safety of 83 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka who are, at the time of writing, being detained on Christmas Island. Australian, Indonesian and Sri Lankan officials are talking about returning the refugees to Sri Lanka, via Indonesia, without their asylum claims being assessed — a new departure from Australia’s international legal obligations to refugees.

While Qantas workers’ job security remains uncertain if the Airline Partners Australia (APA) $11.1 billion takeover bid for Qantas succeeds, executives at the national carrier stand to pocket millions.

A United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) report released in February reveals that Australia’s economic growth over the last decade has done little to benefit the poorest sections of society, particularly young people. Indeed, in Australia and across the developed world, child poverty has increased in the last 10 years.

On February 23 and 25, US and Iraqi forces raided the head offices of Iraq’s national trade union centre, the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW). One of the union’s security staff was arrested and later released. The soldiers destroyed furniture and confiscated a computer and fax machine. The union has condemned the attacks as unprovoked and is demanding a written apology from the occupation forces, the return of seized property and compensation for damages. Messages of protest can be lodged at: <http://www.labourstart.org/iraqraid>.

On February 24, 200 people rallied at the Esplanade Lagoon despite tropical rain to oppose a proposed resort and housing complex at False Cape on the coast south of the city. Until now, this side of Trinity Bay has provided Cairns with a natural setting visible from its centre.

As right-wing death squads reassert their presence and gangs and organised crime with links to the highest levels of government operate freely, campesinos (peasants) and organised youth are being persecuted and beaten in the streets. On February 27, while holding a peaceful and legal protest against the regional free trade agreement CAFTA and the government’s crackdown on civil liberties, 27 young activists were detained, charged with civil disobedience and brutally beaten by the civil police. Meanwhile the Popular Youth Bloc is awaiting information on the fate of Edwar Contreras Bonifacio, who was forcibly disappeared when he left college on February 7. An international solidarity campaign is underway and people are urged to write to the nearest Salvadoran consulate or embassy demanding his safe return, as well as the release of the 27 arrested youth. The youth and popular organisations are responding to this campaign of state-sponsored intimidation with the call to “Answer more repression with more struggle!”

The Islamic Girls and Women’s Group will make its office in Ross House on Flinders Lane available for use by Muslim Legal Services Victoria to provide free legal services for Muslims.

On February 24, Hy Vuthy, a leader of the Free Trade Union of the Workers of Cambodia (FTUWKC) was shot dead while driving home. The murder occurred shortly after Hy Vuthy successfully negotiated with a company for a one-day holiday for Khmer New Year. This was the third murder of a FTUWKC representative since the union’s former president, Chea Vichea, was killed in 2004. On February 26, the International Trade Union Confederation called on the Cambodian government to investigate the crime, bring those responsible to justice, and to end the campaign of repression against trade unionists. For more information, visit <http://www.ituc-csi.org>.

Young people are likely to be hit hard by Work Choices, the Youth Coalition, the peak youth affairs body in the ACT, told the Legislative Assembly’s select committee on working families on March 1.

The South Korean anti-war movement is appealing for support in its campaign demanding the right to hold an anti-war demonstration on March 17, as part of the global weekend of action on the anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq. The government has banned the protest. Korean Action against Dispatch of Troops to Iraq, an anti-war coalition comprising 351 organisations, is calling on international anti-war and pro-democracy groups to send letters of protest to, and organise demonstrations outside of, the South Korean consulate or embassy in your country. Messages of solidarity can be sent to <antipabyeong@empal.com>.

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