Refugees

Twelve people have died in Australian offshore detention centres in the past five years as a result of murder, suicide and medical neglect, according to Angelica Panopoulos from the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria).

"The refugee crisis is a union issue, as well as a social justice issue," Australian Services Union (ASU) NSW and ACT deputy secretary Judith Wright told about 100 people on June 27 at the "Change the Rules for Refugees" forum organised by Unions for Refugees.

"The ASU has members in support services for refugees. They see first-hand the results of the oppression and violence suffered by asylum seekers," she said.

Two new documentaries that screened at the recent Sydney Film Festival shine a light, in contrasting but powerful styles, on an important, yet often neglected story in the refugee narrative — why people seek asylum.

A desperate rooftop protest by an Iranian refugee being held on Christmas Island was restarted on June 11 after being subjected to further inhumanity.

Ghazi (not his real name), and another refugee took to the roof of the detention centre in late May to protest the conditions and the lack of access to medical care. According to the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC) both men had been in detention for over 3 years and were apparently taken to court and charged over an alleged incident prior to the May protest.

Refugee advocates holding placards at a vigil in Sydney.

Refugee activists in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney held protest vigils for Salim Kyawmin, an elderly Rohingya man who died on Manus Island on May 22. The largest action was in Melbourne where 200 people occupied the streets for a short, time stopping traffic. In Perth refugee activists occupied the department of Immigration, making flowers and in Brisbane a protest was held in front of Peter Duttons office.

Seventy refugee supporters held a birthday party for a young girl outside the State Library on May 12. They ate birthday cake and sang "happy birthday".

But three-year-old Kopika was unable to attend. She was kept behind razor wire in the Broadmeadows detention centre, along with her parents and sister.

Refugee activists outside the Sydney Insitute.

The dishonorable Minister for Home Affairs, Immigration and Border Protection was invited to speak to the right wing “think tank” Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute on May 16. A group of determined refugee activists turned up to greet Dutton when he arrived.

“Political hostages” is an apt term to describe the situation of the several hundred men on Manus Island, Greens Senator Nick McKim told a forum hosted by the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney on April 29.

McKim gave an insight into the siege on Manus Island detention centre in October and November last year. Aziz, one of the refugee leaders on Manus Island, spoke via video, detailing the desperate situation the men are living in today.

About 100 people attended a forum on April 23 with the theme: "Change the rules for refugees".

The forum, organised by the Refugee Action Collective (RAC), aimed to show the links between the struggles for union rights and refugee rights.

Chairperson Lucy Honan, a member of RAC and the Australian Education Union, said that unionists and refugees are under attack by the same Coalition government. She noted that many refugees are themselves workers.

Habiburahman, a Rohingyan refugee and founder of the Australian Burmese Rohingya Organisation, has called on the Australian government to suspend its military aid to Burma (Myanmar). Australia currently spends $450,000 a year on aid to the Burmese military.

Habiburahman was speaking at a public meeting on March 28, organised by the Refugee Action Collective. 

He called for a halt to Australian investment in Burma, with human rights conditions being imposed on any resumption. Woodside Petroleum has invested $400 million in offshore gas and oil exploration.

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