refugee rights

Medical students and professionals are taking inspiring action, in defiance of the Australian government, to assert that health is a human right as the crisis on Manus Island and Nauru rapidly worsens, writes Zebedee Parkes.

“We have a system of detention for people arriving by boat which is deliberately designed to cause harm,” psychiatrist Dr Peter Young told a rally of hundreds of medical students in Sydney on April 7.

Medical students rally for refugees in Sydney on April 7.

Below is the text of the speech by Tamil refugee and member of the Tamil Refugee Council Lavanya Thavaraja to the Melbourne Palm Sunday refugee rally on March 25.

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I am really happy to see so many people here in support of refugees. This rally is very important for many refugees. This is what gives them hope in the face of danger.

Members of the Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) blockaded the Home Affairs Department building and the Wilson Security Car Park in Canberra on March 28.

They were protesting the treatment of refugees held in indefinite detention and at risk of being deported to danger. The activists held banners that read “Border Force Tortures Refugees”, “Deportations = Death”, “#Justice4Refugees”, “#SackDutton” and “All Refugees in Detention are Political Prisoners”.

Seven protesters who superglued their hands to a balustrade in the public gallery of Parliament House were found not guilty on March 29 of intentionally damaging Commonwealth property.

The seven were part of a Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA) campaign that on November 30, 2016, disrupted Question Time in protest at the government's treatment of refugees. The parliamentary session was halted as security officers removed the protesters one by one.

Thousands of people rallied across Australia for refugee rights at the annual Palm Sunday rallies on March 25. Melbourne had its largest rally in years as people called on the government to close down the detention centres, bring them here and let them stay. Walid Zazai, one of the men on Manus Island, sent this speech to refugee activist in Australia. The speech was read out at Palm Sunday rallies across Australia.

For nine months I have volunteered at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney.

For the past few months, an African woman has also been visiting the centre. She is Somalian and was once in detention in Villawood. Before that she was on Christmas Island, and before that on Nauru.

On this day we all sat together laughing, as volunteers do. This was the first time I had properly spoken to her. She seemed happy, calm and free.

Hunger strikes by detainees at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire — one of 13 detention centres in Britain — ended after a month on March 22. However, campaigners have vowed to continue protests.

In the lead up to the Palm Sunday refugee rights rallies Green Left Weekly’s Zebedee Parkes spoke to activists in the refugee campaign about the work they are doing in their communities and why they are coming to the rallies on March 25.

There is a global refugee crisis. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported last year that there are at least 22.5 million people seeking asylum across state borders and tens of millions more have been internally displaced.

The numbers are growing as more people become displaced due to conflict and environmental disasters.

In response, from New York to Berlin to Sydney, leading political parties are building walls, figuratively and literally, instead of coming up with humane solutions.

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