refugee rights

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.

More than 100 people marched in Northcote on March 10 in support of refugee rights. The rally was called by the Refugee Action Collective to focus attention on refugees in the context of the Batman by-election.

Aziz Muhammad, who has been imprisoned on Manus Island for 5 years, spoke to the rally via skype. He spoke of the “terrible” conditions on Manus Island. The three camps where refugees are living are overcrowded. There is no proper medical care. Mental health is deteriorating, as people see no hope. Refugees have been badly beaten by local people.

The Tamil Refugee Council released this statement on March 10.

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The Tamil Refugee Council has condemned an early morning raid in which a refugee family was given just ten minutes to gather their belongings before being flown to Melbourne and detained at the Broadmeadows detention centre (Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, MITA).

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) announced on February 28 that Wilson Security will no longer provide it with security services and SecureCorp has been appointed as its long-term security services provider.

Wilson Security has provided security services for the Australian government’s detention centres on Nauru since 2012 and Manus Island during 2014–17. It is notorious for overseeing, perpetrating and attempting to cover up years of abuse against refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, as many inquiries and reports have shown.

A group of 29 refugees, including eight children, became the fifth group of refugees to escape detention when they left Nauru on March 4 for resettlement in the US. The group consisted of Sri Lankan, Rohingyan and Afghan families, and single men from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Since the US resettlement deal began in September a total of 139 refugees have left Nauru and 85 have left Manus Island.

Iranian-Kurdish journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani has been detained on Manus Island for almost five years. The theme of home in the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s campaign to Change the Policy was inspired by Behrouz, whose vision of home is “humanity”.

United Nations human rights official Andrew Gilmour said on March 7 that it was impossible to safely send Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh back to their homes in Myanmar as documents released under freedom of information laws show that the Australian defence department plans to spend almost $400,000 on training members of the Myanma military in 2017-18.

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