asylum seeker

In 2011, in the days leading up to January 26, with Australian flags fluttering off cars and used as capes, accompanied by cartons of beer, sporting excellence as the pinnacle of Australian achievement and politicians lecturing the country on what it means to be a “proud Australian”, I left Perth.

It is amazing the conversations one overhears sometimes.

I was attending a vigil for Omid Masoumali, the young asylum seeker who died a few days after he set himself on fire in Australia's notorious refugee detention camp in Nauru. The atmosphere at the vigil was sad and tense. Among those at vigil were two young women quietly holding flickering candles.

Another woman holding a Teachers for Refugees banner asked the young women: “What school are you from?”

“I am not at school,” replied one of the young women.

The 12 asylum seekers who fled Sri Lanka and reached the Cocos Islands on May 2 were all arrested on arrival at Colombo airport after being deported by Australian authorities on May 5.

The group, which is believed to include children and an infant as young as one, were handed over to Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department.

The immigration department refused to answer questions about the boat's arrival or the fate of its passengers, saying "we do not comment on operational matters".

A vigil was held in Sydney on May 4 in solidarity with Hodan Yasin, a 19-year-old Somali asylum seeker.

She is in a critical condition after setting herself on fire in Australia's notorious offshore refugee detention centre on the Pacific island state of Nauru.

Just a few days before people had assembled in the same spot in Sydney Town Hall square for a vigil for Omid, a young Iranian asylum seeker who died after also setting himself on fire in Nauru.

Jasmine Pilbrow faced court on April 7 after she stood up for a refugee who was being deported on her Qantas flight.

Reza, an asylum seeker who had been living in the community on a bridging visa, took his life at the Brisbane airport on October 29.

According to friends, he feared being deported back to Iran. “He was scared to stay here”, a friend of the 26-year-old Iranian told the Guardian Australia. He had grown worried that he was being followed and that he would be taken into detention, the friend added.

The friend said Reza called him early on October 25 and said: “I am tired. Always police and people follow me. I want to kill myself. Tell my family.”

Students say ‘Resign Pyne’

About 100 people protested outside the Melbourne launch of federal education minister Christopher Pyne’s new book, A Letter to My Children, on July 31.

The day before, Pyne had been chased off La Trobe University by students chanting, "Pyne the Minister. Can he fix it? No he can’t.”

The protest was called to draw attention to Pyne's ongoing attempts to deregulate university fees. This would condemn future students to pay much higher fees to gain a tertiary education.

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