refugee rights

On July 22, Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Soubhi Iskander condemned the Australia First Party's leaflets attacking immigrants from Africa. The leaflets were letterboxed in the western Sydney suburb of Seven Hills.

Iskander is a refugee from Sudan and lives in Seven Hills.

“This is a call to incite racist violence against communities of colour", Iskander said.

“Blaming Africans for the social problems in Sydney's west that are the result of a lack of employment, affordable housing and public transportation is wrong.

Resistance has always championed solidarity with refugees, in a political arena of racism and fear-mongering. Resistance is committed to building campaigns demanding dignity, respect and human rights for asylum seekers.

Recently, we have been reaching out to refugees who are detained like prisoners for legitimately seeking asylum in Australia. Group visits to Villawood detention centre in western Sydney were initiated by Sydney Resistance about three months ago. Wollongong and Newcastle Resistance branches have also been involved.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s high-handed attempts to impose a “regional asylum seeker processing centre” on East Timor have angered Timorese politicians and activists.

Despite Gillard’s talk about finding a regional solution to a regional problem, the “problem” of “unauthorised boat arrivals” in Australia is one of perception.

The Liberal-National opposition and the Murdoch tabloids have devoted considerable energy to creating anxiety in sections of the Australian community about the country being swamped by “boat people”.

Aboriginal academic and activist Sharon Firebrace is the Victorian Socialist Alliance Senate candidate in the federal election. Firebrace founded the Aboriginal Genocide Centre. Repealing the NT intervention and standing up for refugee rights are key parts of her election policy.

Below, she responds to Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement on refugees.

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On April 9, the Australian Labor Party government, then led by Kevin Rudd, imposed a three-month suspension of the processing of refugees from Sri Lanka. On July 6, the Labor government of PM Julia Gillard announced, in the context of unveiling its pre-election tougher stance against refugees, that the suspension would not be extended.

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

I can’t help but be reminded of the these words of Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering as the big parties in Australia intensify efforts at scoring goals at the others expense by putting forward players who can kick the ball (in this case asylum seekers) the hardest.

Luta Hamutuk, a Dili-based non government organisation, released the following statement on July 7. It was translated from Tetum by Tomas Freitas.

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The July 7 Java Post said: “Prime Minister Julia Gillard has tightened Australia immigration law. Not wanting to be bothered by the economic and social problems caused by asylum seekers, the Australian leader plans to build a detention center for asylum seekers in Timor-Leste.”

The above statement shows how Australian foreign policy contains “racist characteristics” toward Timor-Leste and the region.

Last week was another ugly political week in Australia. There was much to be disgusted about, but one line disgusted me particularly.

It was from an apologist for the Julia Gillard Labor government who dared to offer this whispered excuse for the PM's shameless embrace of racist scapegoating of desperate asylum seekers:

“Julia Gillard is pretending to be conservative so that [Coalition leader Tony] Abbott can't use this issue to win the elections. Once Labor wins, they will implement a different policy.

“It's clever politics.”

Fifty people rallied outside the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on July 9 in response to the Gillard Labor government's proposed new "East Timor solution" for processing asylum seekers. The protest was organised by the Refugee Action Collective.

Aboriginal rights leader and Socialist Alliance Senate candidate Sam Watson told the protest: “[Opposition leader Tony] Abbott and [PM Julia] Gillard are creating the atmosphere for another Tampa election, targeting the most vulnerable people.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s July 5 announcement that she would solve the refugee crisis by being tougher on refugees did what former PM John Howard failed to do in his 11 years of conservative rule. She has made former One Nation MP Pauline Hanson feel at home.

Hanson announced she wasn’t emigrating to Britain, as planned, saying she was in “total agreement” with Gillard’s plan to “sweep political correctness from the debate”, the Australian said on July 6.

Gillard’s main proposals cast refugees as a problem to be solved — and blame the refugees for that problem.

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