I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the Villawood detention centre. Most of what I knew came from mainstream media, which usually ignores a particular perspective: that of the refugees themselves. “Queue-jumpers”, “expensive”, “unwelcome”, “should be sent back” are common themes. This rhetoric reduces asylum seekers and their experiences to nothing more than blood-sucking parasites looking for a warm place to nestle. “Boat people” make up only 3% of all refugees coming to Australia. The rest arrive in planes. Where’s all the hype about “plane people”?
“Stop trampling rights to win votes”; “Stop breaking laws to win votes”; “Stop racist policy risking lives” and “Stop the freeze on asylum seekers' rights” were key slogans at a rally organised by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations on May 8, as part of a national day of action. The 300 protesters heard from Chaman Shah Nasiri, a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan who had suffered in the now-closed Nauru detention camp under previous Coalition prime minister John Howard's Pacific Solution policy.
Over April 19-20, Indonesian police and naval officers forced almost 150 Tamils onto buses at Port Merak and took them to the Tanjung Pinang detention centre. For seven months, more than 250 Tamils had withstood appalling conditions aboard a squalid boat at the West Java port. Their hope was for refugee status in Australia. Their fear was of being locked up in Indonesian detention centres or deported back to Sri Lanka.
Over April 17-18, Tamils across Australia voted overwhelmingly in favour of the formation of an independent and sovereign homeland — Tamil Eelam — in the north and east of Sri Lanka. In what was described by organisers as “the most successful political event for the diaspora in Australia”, 99.38% of participants voted “yes”.
This article first appeared at TamilNet. * * * More than 10,000 Tamils in Australia registered to cast their votes in the referendum across Australia over April 17 and 18 on the creation of independent Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka, reported SBS Australia, citing organisers.