Refugees

In the wake of another death on Manus Island, vigils are being held around the country and more than 200 refugees on Manus Island have signed a letter calling for a Royal Commission to fully investigate IHMS (the Manus detention medical provider contracted to the Australian government) and its political control by Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

In a landmark decision on December 16, the Federal Court found the minister for immigration Peter Dutton unreasonably delayed making decisions on applications for citizenship by refugees.

The court also ruled that Dutton erred in rejecting the applications for citizenship of two Afghan refugees several weeks after they commenced legal proceedings. The pair had been permanent residents of Australia for more than four years.

On December 16, the Federal Court ruled that delays by the Department of Immigration and Border Security (DIBS) in making decisions on citizenship were “unreasonable”, prompting hope for people with refugee backgrounds in a similar plight. 

One litigant said: “This may set an important precedent for individuals in similar circumstances.”

Acting CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) Tim O’Connor said the decision was a “landmark ruling” which recognised the “injustice” citizenship delays had caused. 

The Refugee Action Collective organised a public meeting on November 7, addressed by Harry Wicks, who had worked as a carpenter at the Nauru detention centre and Bernard, a Malaysian who has done volunteer work at refugee camps in Malaysia.

Wicks said that Nauru, a small island with a population of 10,000 people, has a 90% unemployment rate.

Every day, people’s human rights are violated. In detention centres like those on Nauru and Manus Island, such violations are not just allowed but enforced by the Australian government. However, last month people stood together for nine hours to tell the Australian government that they would not accept it any longer. 

The vigil was held in the Hobart CBD from 10am to 7pm. People took turns reading to onlookers from the Nauru case files that were recently leaked by the Guardian. Others held placards and banners with messages of solidarity for the people in detention centres at Manus and Nauru. 

Advocacy group Doctors for Refugees has launched a High Court challenge to the controversial Border Force Act that prevents them from speaking out about child abuse and other threats to asylum seekers in detention centres.

Lawyers for the doctors will argue that the court should declare invalid laws that threaten detention centre staff with two years' jail for disclosing information about conditions they observe behind the wire.

More than 1500 people crowded into Sydney's ornate Town Hall as an east coast low brought rain tumbling down, to rally for refugees.

The pre-election refugee rights rally, themed 'Close Manus, Close Nauru, Bring Them Here', was held during World Refugee Week.

Speakers included Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Ken Canning, who gave a moving acknowledgment of country; Ian Rintoul from Refugee Action Coalition; TV personality Margaret Pomeranz, Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, Sophia from Young Labor for Refugees, Hamad, a refugee, and Judith and Evan, who were teachers formerly on Nauru.

The Refugee Action Collective Queensland protested outside the electoral office of immigration minister Peter Dutton in Strapthine on June 9.

The collective presented the minister’s office with a copy of the Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru report Protection Denied, Abuse Condoned: Women on Nauru at Risk, authored by five prominent Australian women.

Zebedee Parkes, an activist in Sydney’s Refugee Action Coalition and member of Socialist Alliance prepared this for Green Left Weekly.

1. Asylum seeker protests in Nauru detention centre for more than 60 days

Protests in the Nauru detention centre started on March 20 and have now continued for more than 60 days in the face of hostility from guards and attempts to stop messages from getting out to the world.

Several hundred people rallied outside the department of immigration in Sydney on April 29.

They were part of nation-wide #BringThemHere actions, demanding the federal Coalition government bring the 850 asylum seekers and refugees currently in Manus Island Detention Centre to Australia.

Earlier in the week, the PNG Supreme Court had ruled that the detention centre was in breach of its constitution.

Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Ken Canning said: "The way this government is treating these people, a lot of them will die — and that is murder."

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