Protest commemorates SIEV-X refugee disaster

Refugee rights supporters rallied in Brisbane on October 15. Photo: Jim McIlroy

About 200 people attended a rally and march in Brisbane Square on October 15 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the sinking of the refugee boat SIEV-X, with the loss of 353 lives — 146 of whom where children.

The then-Howard government and Australian navy knew of this disaster but allowed these asylum seekers, fleeing war and persecution, to die.

Speakers at the rally included former Democrats Senator and now Greens member Andrew Bartlett, an Iraqi refugee now settled in this country, and human rights lawyer Julian Burnside.

Burnside told the crowd: “The government and opposition leader Tony Abbott want to maintain offshore processing of refugees. But this issue is not just offshore processing, but pushing refugees away from Australia.

“Re-opening Nauru, as Abbott is insisting on, is no solution. And Malaysia and Indonesia are the end of the line.

“Asylum seekers can wait in Indonesia for 10 to 15 years, not allowed to work. If you were in that position, what would you do?

“In the end, the number of asylum seekers coming to Australia is tiny in proportion to world figures -- around 7000 last year. We can do better. We deserve better from our politicians.”

The protesters then marched through city streets, ending at Post Office Square to join with the Occupy Brisbane camp.

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