Refugees

I had considered the racist abuse hurled at Labor Senator Sam Dastyari to be a deliberate publicity stunt by a group of neo-Nazis, enabled by a climate of rising bigotry and white nationalism, on the grounds that they deliberately sought out the senator, filmed their racist abuse and posted it on Facebook.

That was before Pauline Hanson explained otherwise. The senator, campaigning in Queensland, pointed out that Dastyari was just using abuse he faced in a pub on November 8 to sell his book.

If there is one thing I have learnt from being involved in this campaign over the past decade, it is that seeing people protesting, known that someone cares about you and is watching, has always made a difference to people suffering in detention.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s enthusiastic embrace of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is reprehensible, the Tamil Refugee Council said on November 2.

“This place is like a war zone,” wrote Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist locked up in the Manus Island detention centre, as he exhaustedly began to describe the situation on November 2 – day 2 of the “Manus Island siege”.

Since October 31, 600 desperate men, suffering in more ways than most people can comprehend after more than four years of torture in detention, have barricaded themselves in the centre.

In a September address to the United Nations Human Rights Council, top UN human rights official Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, described the Myanmar military’s attacks on Rohingya as being “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Satellite photos show the Myanmar security forces and local militia burning entire Rohingya villages to the ground. There are consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including the shooting of fleeing civilians.

The following statement from the Australia Burma Rohingya Organisation was read by Habib to a solidarity protest in Melbourne on September 7.

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Today we raise our voices on behalf of the oppressed Rohingya and Kaman people, who are facing ongoing genocide in the Rakhine [Arakan] state of western Myanmar [Burma].

We are also protesting the continuous wars being waged against minorities in the Shan and Kachin states.

More than 800 Somali and Eritrean refugees were violently evicted on August 24 from a building they were occupying in the centre of Rome. The occupation, which began in 2013, had come to symbolised the inefficient and broken nature of refugee reception policies in Italy.

The federal government and its offshore detention contractors will pay more than $70 million in compensation to 1905 refugees and asylum seekers for illegally detaining them in dangerous and damaging conditions on Manus Island.

In what may be Australia's largest ever human rights-related settlement, on June 14 the government settled out of court before the class action, brought on behalf of the refugees and asylum seekers detained on the island, began.

Newcastle Students Against Detention (SAD) culture jammed the University of Newcastle’s rebranding launch on May 15, putting pressure on the administration to cut ties with Broadspectrum which runs Australia’s detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

The students were leaked the designs which they parodied to better reflect the University of Newcastle’s (UON) odious business ties, and stuck them over the official ones.

The rebranding focused on the word “New”, so SAD made posters stating: “New Abuses. New Human Rights Violations. Lose Your Ethics at UON.”

In recent weeks, there have been some worrying developments in the Italian political scene. Extremist, anti-refugee and xenophobic ideas are increasingly gaining ground.

In a growing climate of uncertainty and social instability, all major political forces seem to be riding the wave of discontent to raise their electoral profiles, rather than trying to calm things down.

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