refugee rights

The Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizen’s Alliance and other refugee activists interrupted Question Time at 2pm on November 30 because there is no opposition to cruelty in our parliament.

We came to parliament because the Australian government has become a world leader in cruelty. 

Seven of us were superglued to the balustrade and 30 of us inside the chamber spoke in unison: “We are here today because you are all complicit in the murder, rape, torture and child abuse of refugees”. 

The date November 30, 2016 will surely go down in infamy through all history — or at least until the developing ecoholocaust being worsened by Australian government policies destroys the basis for human civilisation and renders meaningless the concept of history. So until about 2030, at least.

On that day, in Canberra, a terrible assault on democracy took place. It pains me to write this, but Parliamentary Question Time — that institution all freedom loving people throughout the world hold so dear — was delayed for 40 minutes by chanting protesters in the public gallery.

Hundreds of days of protests by refugees on Nauru, landmark court decisions, the Nauru Files, politicians’ offices occupied, parliament interrupted, suicides in detention, damning international reports and many more people becoming active in the campaign for refugee justice is the story of the refugee campaign this year.

The significant growth of campaign groups and the development of new ones means we are in a better position to end the indefinite and cruel mandatory detention of asylum seekers and refugees.

Iranian refugee Mojgan Shamsalipoor finally received her high school certificate on November 16 after missing her graduation last year because she was in immigration detention.

Shamsalipoor arrived in Australia by boat in 2012 and attended Yeronga State High School.

She lived in the Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre (BITAC) but was suddenly removed to the Darwin detention centre last August.

Refugee rights activists in the Illawarra dropped off nearly 300 postcards at the Wollongong office of local MP Sharon Bird on November 18.

The postcards call on Labor to close the Manus Island and Nauru detention centres and bring the refugees to Australia.

There is growing resistance to President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to detain and deport millions of people from the United States, Democracy Now! reported on November 22.

Mayors from New York to Chicago to Seattle say they will refuse to cooperate even as Trump promises to cut funds from so-called sanctuary cities. Meanwhile, the movement is growing for “sanctuary campuses”.

A report by UNICEF and Save the Children found operating the detention system on Nauru and Manus Island had cost $3.6 billion since the reintroduction of offshore processing in 2012.

The report said shutting offshore detention facilities would save $2 billion over four years.

Turnbacks are estimated to have cost nearly $300 million since Operation Sovereign Borders began.

Jasmine Pilbrow, a refugee rights activist who tried to stop the deportation of a Tamil asylum seeker, was sentenced on November 11 to a two-year good behaviour bond. No conviction was recorded.

In February last year, Pilbrow was among a group of activists trying to prevent the deportation of asylum seeker Puvaneethan.

She bought a ticket on his flight and once on board distributed flyers and refused to sit down unless he was allowed off the flight.

She was arrested by AFP officers and later charged with interfering with a cabin crew member and found guilty.

The offshore detention hellholes of Nauru and Manus Island are becoming increasingly unviable as more damning reports are published, court cases in Papua New Guinea continue, private service providers under the pressure of boycott campaigns decline to reapply for contracts and protests grow in Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s latest plan — third country resettlement in the United States — is a reaction to this pressure, while also maintaining the policy of boat turnbacks, border security rhetoric and denying asylum seekers the right to be resettled in Australia.

Imagine hearing that your favourite athlete had drowned after being stuffed in the hull of a ship in order to avoid authorities and cross a treacherous body of water. Their goal in this alternative universe was to flee violence as well as earn enough to support their families.

That is exactly what happened to the goalkeeper for the Gambian national women’s football team, Fatim Jawara.

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