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Issue #1608      August 28, 2013

The struggle for refugee rights continues

On July 19 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his government’s solution to the “refugee crisis”, the now appalling Papua New Guinea policy, whereby all refugees seeking asylum in Australia by boat would be transferred there.

(Photo: Richard Titelius)

It is a vindictive scheme which seeks to abdicate Australia’s obligation under international treaties to offer assistance to people who come to Australia to seek asylum.

Since July 20, five refugee rights rallies have been held in Perth with the most recent last Saturday in the Hay Street Mall which was attended by about 300 people.

The rally was organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN).

The first speaker was Sandra Bartlett who is a member of RRAN at Murdoch University where she is studying the effects of the Australian governments’ refugee policy on refugees. Bartlett said there was no need for these harsh policies as refugees enriched our life in Australia.

The next speaker was Kate Davis a lawyer and candidate for the Greens who spoke of the perilous journeys that refugees often make to leave their countries only to spend time in isolated and harsh detention centres for months and years at a time awaiting the outcome of their applications for asylum. Davis suggested that refugees are not a threat to our national security, yet we are spending exorbitant sums as if they were. This includes $1.2 billion to reopen Manus and Nauru Islands as detention centres – pursuing this option for their (ALP/Liberal Party) own political purposes.

Manicka Vasagar of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelan addressed the rally about the civil war which ended in May 2009 and which had resulted in war crimes against the Tamil people and the killing of 40,000 people, mostly Tamils.

The north and east of Sri Lanka had now become High Security Zone resulting in the restriction of access and movement within this zone and the diminished economic livelihoods of the Tamils who remained.

Vasagar added that 146,000 people remain unaccounted for and the conflict had left 60,000 children without parents. Australians needed to convince the Australian government to make Sri Lanka conform to acceptable international standards of behaviour. Vasagar also called on the Australian government to withdraw their support/legitimacy by boycotting this year’s CHOGM meeting in the capital Colombo, to not play cricket with Sri Lanka and to stop tourism to the country.

Vasagar concluded by saying, “We don’t need to turn the boats around, we need to stop them leaving in the first place by taking action on human rights violations in Sri Lanka.”

Rikki Hendon, the assistant secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association addressed the rally, saying that the executive of her union had recently passed a motion of concern over the government’s treatment of refugees and called for a more humane solution on the issue of the detention of refugees.

“Unions are about more than defending our rights, they are about standing up for what is right”, added Hendon and that, “Unions stand in solidarity with those people seeking asylum.”

The final speaker was Sam Wainright, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Fremantle, who made the salient point about the refugee stands of the conservative parties: “Stopping the boats does not stop the flow of refugees from these war torn and repressive corners of our globe.”

The rally then marched to spread its urgent and compelling message to Saturday afternoon shoppers and vowed to return again the Sunday after the election.

The Communist Party of Australia calls on the Australian government to abandon its cruel and expensive offshore processing of refugees and instead process claims for refugees in Australia and to address the push factors in their countries of origin.

Next article – Capitalism and the environment

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