Activists keep up the fight to free all refugees

February 23, 2021
February 20 rally outside the Park Hotel prison. Photo: Babkir Omda

Don Khan, a Rohingya refugee who was brought to Australia 20 months ago under the defunct Medevac law, told a rally on February 20 by phone, that he had still not been given specialist treatment. The rally was organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC Victoria).

Khan, who is now in the Park Hotel in Carlton, has been a prisoner of the Australian government in offshore and on shore detention since he was 17 years old.

Khan spoke on behalf of his “brothers” who remain locked up in onshore and offshore detention, saying: “We are fighting for human rights! We need to keep raising our voice!”

There are estimated 150 refugees in detention centres across Australia and an estimated 260 refugees in Papua New Guinea and Nauru Island.

Khan has come under pressure from Serco and Border Force for speaking out.

Another Medevac refugee, Abu Bakr, who is now imprisoned in the Broadmeadows Detention Centre, expressed his thanks to supporters via phone.

“We are alive because of your support and you have given us hope. We have been moving [between] so many detention centres without reason. As you know, we have been suffering in detention centres for eight years.”

RAC member Lucy Honan said protests and legal action spurred on the release of 60 refugees from hotel prison in January.

The protesters marched to the Park Hotel, demanding freedom for all refugees.

One of the freed Medevac refugees Mohammed Imran said he was happy to be released, but unhappy that some of his friends are still in detention.

Imran, who spoke outside the Park Hotel, said: “I am here to tell you how painful it is for us and our families. I got freedom. No more Serco guards locking my door.

“We are not criminals and we did not commit any crime. Thank you for supporting our friends who are still in detention.”

Honan described the visas given to the released refugees as “cruel”. They are allowed to work, but jobs are difficult to find, she said. Refugees on bridging visas cannot access Centrelink and nor can they study.

The government has been stripping support services from refugees on six-month bridging visas, making them increasingly vulnerable.

Federal Labor MP Andrew Giles told the rally that all refugees brought to Australia under the Medevac law should be freed.

He also said the Tamil refugee family detained on Christmas Island since March 2018 should be freed.

Victorian Greens MP Tim Read also called for charges against activists involved in a car cavalcade last April to be dropped. RAC activist Chris Breen has been charged with “incitement”, while 30 others have been fined for participating.

Activists have vowed to not give up the fight to end Australia’s cruel detention regime until every single refugee is freed, given permanent protection with access to income support, study and family reunions.

[Chris Slee is an activist in Refugee Action Collective (Victoria). Daily protests are being organised outside the Park Hotel in Carlton.]

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