refugee rights

After more than four years of systemic torture, six deaths and the Papua New Guinea Supreme court ruling its presence unconstitutional, Manus Island detention centre and the fate of the several hundred men in it, is coming to a head.

The Australian government is ramping up its efforts to close the centre by the end of October, demolishing the centre around the several hundred men it is leaving stranded on Manus Island.

The several hundred men on Manus Island, still detained after more than four years, scattered red petals over pictures of Rajeev Rajendran on the evening of October 2.

A hand-drawn banner, illuminated by flickering candles, spelled out the mood of the memorial.

Below a picture of Rajendran the men wrote: “R.I.P. We are all in the queue. How many more you want to kill?”

The men in Manus Island detention began their 59th day of protest on September 29, days after a handful of their friends left for the US. They held their tired arms above their heads in a cross, a gesture that has become symbolic of refugee protests in detention.

About 25 of the several hundred men on Manus Island have being offered settlement in the US.

Members of Armidale Rural Australians for Refugees and the Socialist Alliance New England branch held their third weekly picket in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers at a busy intersection in Armidale, New South Wales, on September 22. It followed a successful action on September 15.

Protest organiser Bea Bleile said: “Manus Island and Nauru are not safe for refugees and asylum seekers. We call on the Australian government to bring all refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia immediately.

When Australia began forcibly moving people out of Manus Island detention centre to East Lorengau and Port Moresby in August, peaceful protests were launched in the detention centre.

When Australia cut off the power and water, people continued to defiantly protest.

When a detainee, Hamed, was found dead, his body beaten and hung from a tree near the East Lorengau transit centre, a vigil was held for him and the protests continued.

More than 200 people participated in a rally and march for refugee rights on September 2. A similar rally was also held in Sydney.

The demonstration was organised at short notice by the Refugee Action Collective in response to the federal government's decision to end the $100 a week income support for people who were brought to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment and evict them from the houses they are living in. This will initially affect 100 people, but may eventually affect many more.

Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim group who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar.

Many Rohingya came to Myanmar from what is now Bangladesh during the British colonial period (1820s to 1940s) to expand rice cultivation in Rakhine State.

About 1 million Rohingya live in Myanmar, mostly in Rakhine State, making up some 2% of the country’s population and about 30% of the state’s population.

During the early hours of August 25, some 20 to 30 police posts were attacked in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships in the north of Rakhine State in Myanmar (also known as Burma). Twelve police were killed along with 16 attackers.

Responsibility for these attacks was later claimed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

In the two weeks since, the Myanmar military’s response has been brutal, widespread and indiscriminate. While accurate figures are not available, between 400 (military’s estimate), and “around a thousand” (United Nations estimate) Rohingya have been killed by the army.

Despite the clear signals that President Donald Trump would drop the axe on a program that protects unauthorised immigrant young adults from deportation, the announcement by Attorney-General Jeff Sessions provoked an immediate and passionate backlash from the 800,000 young immigrants who benefited from the program, as well as their supporters.

Half-a-million people marched in the Catalan capital of Barcelona on August 26 to express the profound desire in Catalan society to stay tolerant, open and un-militarised in the face of the August 17-18 terror attacks on Barcelona’s Rambla and in the seaside town of Cambrils.

This was partly because the attacks — claimed by Islamic State and causing 15 deaths and up to 130 wounded — coincided with the tensest moments to date in the fight between the Catalan and Spanish governments over the planned October 1 referendum on Catalan independence.

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