refugee rights

Around the country, on March 25 (Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar), people will be protesting about the federal government’s ongoing cruelty towards refugees.

They will be demanding an end to offshore detention and boat turn-backs and for asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to be brought to our shores and offered permanent protection.

Many readers won’t need a reason to join the protests, but here are three new ones.

In his now infamous statement on immigration last month, Trump expressed his views clearly: He doesn’t want immigrants from “shithole” countries in Africa, Haiti and El Salvador — Black and Latina — to be let into the US.

On the other hand, he wants to encourage immigrants from predominantly white nations like Norway.

Around 500 refugees on Nauru have signed a petition to Australian Border Force demanding a timetable for refugee resettlement, to be immediately resettled in Australia pending any further resettlement options and to reunite families that have been separated.

About 130 refugees will fly to the US in the next month: 40 refugees flew from Port Moresby on January 23 and the remaining 90 refugees from Nauru are scheduled to fly in February.

More than 200 detainees at detention centres in Villawood in Sydney and Maribyrnong in Melbourne, were on hunger strike for five days from January 15–19 in protest at visitor restrictions announced by Border Force.

Beginning January 22, visitors will have to give five days’ notice of any visit and fill in a five-page form, with actual visits restricted to one-on-one.

Visitors will be required to provide 100 points of identification.

In 2011, in the days leading up to January 26, with Australian flags fluttering off cars and used as capes, accompanied by cartons of beer, sporting excellence as the pinnacle of Australian achievement and politicians lecturing the country on what it means to be a “proud Australian”, I left Perth.

Five activists who scaled the Sydney Opera House roof to unfurl banners reading "Australia: World Leaders in Cruelty #BringThemHere" and "Evacuate Manus" on November 9 pleaded guilty to trespass in the Downing Centre Local Court on December 20.

They were fined a total of $20,000.

WACA spokesperson Lily Matchett said: “We face court in Sydney today for protesting the inhumane treatment of refugees while the injustice on Manus Island continues to unfold.

The Manus Island tragedy is the latest in a series of systemic human rights abuses by successive Australian governments in recent decades.

But there is another story: one of courageous resistance in some of the most hostile situations imaginable — a resistance led by several hundred people on Manus Island who are still protesting, still demanding “freedom, nothing less than freedom”.

Victoria Police are being used by the state Labor government to threaten and harass protesters who have been organising in support of asylum seekers on Manus Island. Activists described the behaviour of the police at a recent rally as state sanctioned violence.

On November 24, a neo-Nazi grabbed the rally microphone and began screaming into it that refugees were rapists and that they should not be bought to Australia.

After an announcement from the Donald Trump administration that it is terminating temporary protections for about 59,000 Haitians who fled to the United States after a devastating 2010 earthquake, journalist Naomi Klein warns decisions by the United States and Canadian governments indicate how wealthy nations may handle climate refugees in the years to come.

As the tropical sun set over Manus Island detention centre on November 23, Walid Zazai wrote on Twitter for the final time that night. He reflected on the day as:

“A day of horror. A day of fear. A day I will never forget.

“I thought I’m back in Afghanistan in a war zone. There was no way to hide, just the sky.

“Friends have been beaten, have been taken by force to town centres.

“Don't know what will happen tomorrow. Remember us in your prayers.”

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