Let Them Stay! – Rally against returning refugees to Nauru – 4 February 2016.

Following the High Court’s ruling that off-shore detention on Nauru was legal, protests erupted around Australia, including one called at 24 hours’ notice at the State Library in Melbourne:

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For once this and other rallies received considerable traditional media attention, in addition to the extensive coverage on social platforms. First stop would be the event’s Facebook page, but there were reports also in The Age and on the ABC (focused on Sydney), for example. As always, accounts of the numbers present varied, but at its peak, a figure of around five thousand seemed reasonable. For such short notice it was a remarkable achievement.

At the of this post will be found a Media Release from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, along with some recent statements from the UN regarding Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers. One of the speakers at the rally was Alex Bhathal of The Greens, and the following links are from her Facebook page:

http://junkee.com/no-shame-why-most-australians-feel-okay-about-tormenting-asylum-seekers/72827#5HcWd8zoPbGyQvli.99

Part 2 of this article can be found here: http://junkee.com/72869/72869

The other main speakers were Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre; Mohammad Ali Baqiri, former detainee on Nauru; Michele O’Neil of the TCFUA; and Colin Long of the NTEU.

The rally began with speakers at the State Library, followed by a march down Swanston Street to Bourke Street, then along Bourke Street as far as the intersection with Exhibition Street, which was occupied for a time (Liberal Party Headquarters are just north of this point), then continuing up to Spring Street and so on to the Department of Immigration at Casselden Place, where there was a further sit-down. The arrangement of the photos following reflects these stages:

At the State Library –

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On the march:

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The first sit-down:

 

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More on the march:

 

 

 

At Casselden Place:

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MEDIA RELEASE – 4TH February, 2016

CATHEDRALS AND CHURCHES AROUND AUSTRALIA OFFER SANCTUARY TO ASYLUM SEEKER FAMILIES FACING DEPORTATION TO NAURU

Brisbane’s St John’s Anglican Cathedral, amongst others, has been declared a place of sanctuary for asylum seekers facing deportation after yesterday’s High Court decision which allowed for their imminent removal to Nauru.
Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt says he is declaring the church as a sanctuary, given the trauma and abuse these asylum seekers face if deported.

“The High Court’s decision means 267 people including 37 babies face imminent removal to Nauru.  They could be issued notices at any time and ordered to leave Australia within 72 hours,” said Dr Catt.

“This is a hugely significant action for any Australian church to take.  Historically churches have afforded sanctuary to those seeking refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.

“We offer this refuge because there is irrefutable evidence from health and legal experts that the circumstances asylum seekers, especially children, would face if sent back to Nauru are tantamount to state-sanctioned abuse,” said the Very Rev’d Dr Catt.

“This fundamentally goes against our faith, so our church community is compelled to act, despite the possibility of individual penalty against us”.

“It is an extraordinary step.  It is a step that will attract the attention of church communities around the world.

“The ancient principle of sanctuary goes back to The Old Testament, and was enshrined in English Common Law.  Where a state is causing grievous harm, churches can provide sanctuary and immunity from arrest by authorities.  The legality of Sanctuary has never been tested under Australian law, nevertheless we are determined to apply its moral precepts and protect the most vulnerable from certain harm.”

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer for the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said that “Cathedrals that have offered to protect asylum seekers from deportation to a place where people face, rape, sexual assault, and unimaginable conditions, include: St John’s Cathedral Brisbane, St George’s Cathedral Perth, St David’s Cathedral Hobart and Christchurch Cathedral Darwin.

She also said that “many priests and vicars of local churches who feel compelled to provide the moral leadership that their position requires, have also offered Sanctuary. These include: St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church; Darlington, WA; Perth Wesley Uniting Church; Gosford Anglican Church; Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide; St. John’s Uniting Church Essendon; Paddington Anglican Church, Pitt Street Uniting Church and the Wayside Chapel in Sydney. Many other churches have offered to support the Sanctuaries in various ways”.

A press conference will be held on Thursday 4th February at 10.30am with The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt at St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane.

Media spokespeople:

The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt, Chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce: 0404 052 494
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce: 0428 399 739

Misha Coleman | Executive Officer (Wed, Thurs, Fri)
Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce
Telephone 0428 399 739 | Email info@acrt.com.au
Follow us on Facebook | Join us on Twitter | Visit our website
cid:3E8AEB66-2072-4AD5-9A22-B5147A61F938

John Ball
International Programs Co-ordinator, Act for Peace
jball@actforpeace.org.au | T +613 96506811 | M +61412528514  F +613 96508383  Skype: john.ball4
Level 4, 306 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC  3000, Australia

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Best interests of the child must come first, UN child rights committee reminds Australia

GENEVA (3 February  2016) – The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has reminded the Australian authorities that, under the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a party,  the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration when taking any decision concerning children.

The Committee was reacting to the decision by the Australian High Court that the government’s policy of detaining asylum seekers offshore is legal, thereby clearing the way for more than 260 people currently in Australia, including dozens of children and infants, to be deported to an immigration processing centre in Nauru.

“The Committee had already expressed its concern in 2012 when it reviewed Australia at ‘the inadequate understanding and application of the principle of the best interests of the child in asylum-seeking, refugee and/or immigration detention situations’,”* said Committee Chair Benyam Mezmur. “This decision by the High Court greatly concerns us as these children and their families face a great risk in being sent to a place that cannot be considered safe nor adequate.”

Among those who could face deportation are reportedly 54 children, as well as 37 babies who were born in Australia.

Article 3 (1) of the Convention states:  “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

ENDS

*Committee on the Rights of the Child review findings on Australia 2012 – see paragraph 31

http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRC/C/AUS/CO/4&Lang=En

For more information and media requests, please contact Liz Throssell  +41 (0) 22 917 9466 / +41 79 752 0488

ethrossell@ohchr.org

The Committee on the Rights of the Child:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIndex.aspx

Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified to date by 196 States):
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN

Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:

Twitter: @UNHumanRights
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Instagram: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr

 

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Comment by the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, on the possible transfer of 267 people from Australia to Nauru

GENEVA (3 February 2016) – We are very concerned about the situation of the 267 people, including up to 80 children, at risk of being transferred from Australia to Nauru following the High Court’s decision delivered this morning in Canberra.

Central to the decision was a retrospective amendment to the Migration Act which was passed by the Australian Parliament shortly after the case was initiated and which validated the offshore processing of asylum seekers. We are concerned that
this amendment, as well as broader aspects of Australia’s policy on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers arriving without prior authorisation, significantly contravenes the letter and spirit of international human rights law.

Most of these people were reportedly brought to Australia from Nauru to receive medical treatment and are in a fragile physical and mental state. The group includes more than 12 women and at least one child who have allegedly suffered sexual assault or harassment while in Nauru. The group also includes 37 children born in Australia.

We believe that transferring these 267 individuals to Nauru could further damage their physical and mental health, and would put Australia at risk of breaching its obligation not to return any person to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under the Convention against Torture. Moreover, sending these children to Nauru could contravene Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We remind Australia that children, regardless of their legal status, have the right to be treated as children first and foremost, and urge Australia to ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child
takes precedence over migration management or administrative considerations.

While we appreciate Australia’s efforts to upgrade medical facilities in Nauru, the country is still not equipped to respond to the needs of severely traumatized individuals, including children. In addition, there are inadequate systems for child protection, education or social welfare in place. Several independent inquiries, including the 2014 Philip Moss inquiry and the 2015 Senate inquiry, have found that Nauru is neither a safe nor an appropriate environment to send  people in situations of vulnerability to, in particular children.

We therefore urge the Australian Government to refrain from transferring all concerned individuals to Nauru.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 /rcolville@ohchr.org)or Cécile

Pouilly(+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN

Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:

Twitter: @UNHumanRights
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Instagram: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Light the Dark Melbourne” – candlelit vigil for refugees, 7 September 2015

Part of the gathering during minute's silence

From the callout issued by GetUp Australia:

The image of a Syrian child’s lifeless body washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach this week brought the world to its knees. His name was Aylan Kurdi, and he was just three years old.

The sad reality is that Aylan was one among millions of desperate people forced to flee from war and persecution. The world is facing a global refugee crisis on a scale we’ve not seen since WWII, but Australia – our lucky country of a fair go for all – is not doing enough. We can do better to help these people.
We need to do better.

That’s why on Monday night, we will light a candle to remember Aylan Kurdi. We will stand together in solidarity with people across the world who are forced to ask for protection from countries like ours. We’ll shine a light in the darkness, in protest of our country’s abandonment of the world’s most desperate people, who seek only safety and protection.

We will send a message to the world that our government’s inaction does not represent us, and that Australia says welcome.

In spite of threatened rain – which did eventuate but was brushed off by participants – thousands gathered in response to the call, and there were similar though smaller rallies in other centres. Speakers in Melbourne were mostly familiar from past rallies. They included ex-detainee Mohammad Ali Baqiri, Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Father Bob Maguire, Zakia Baig of the Australian Hazara Women’s Friendship Network (AHWFN), and Sarah Ireland of Save the Children Australia. MC was comedian Anne Edmonds, assisted by two sign language interpreters.

Some links to media reports:
http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/light-the-dark-melbourne-rallies-for-asylum-seekers-20150907-gjh7ai.html
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-07/light-the-dark-candlelight-vigils-held-for-asylum-seekers/6756390
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-07/thousands-rally-in-melbourne-treasury-gardens-for-asylum-seekers/6756400

In addition many participants have uploaded photos to the event Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/events/1064515756893972/

Mohammad Ali Baqiri speaking

Mohammad Ali Baqiri

Sarah Ireland speaking

Sarah Ireland, Humanitarian Policy and Advocacy Adviser at Save the Children Australia, based in Lebanon

Father Bob Maguire

Father Bob Maguire

Zakia Baig speaking

Zakia Baig from the Australian Hazara Women’s Friendship Network Inc.-AHWFN

Pamela Curr speaking

Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre

More photos, in no particular order, and self-explanatory:

Walk for Justice for Refugees – Palm Sunday, 29 March 2015

As indicated in the title, this site is no longer posting regularly. But since we were at the march yesterday, and we had a camera, here are some photos from the initial rally at the State Library, and then on the march itself. The event Facebook page has plenty more. None of these seem to need captions or further explanation. (Last year’s corresponding rally was reported on this site here.)

At the State Library:

Looking over heads of part of the crowd

On the March:

Justice for Refugees banner at head of march

Placard against children in detention; child on man's shoulders

Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children – launch, 6 September 2014

Banner of Grandmothers against ...
A newly-formed group campaigning against the detention of asylum seeker children held a launch today on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children has grown out of a meeting of friends last April and now numbers over two hundred, according to Dr Gwenda Davey, one of the founders, who spoke today. (For more about the group, see the website.)

Crowd gathering outside St Paul's - banner reads Let's fully Welcome Refugees

Before the official start of the launch – note the banner on the wall of the cathedral.

From a media release for the event:

Hundreds of grandmothers from across Victoria will gather on Saturday to begin a campaign for the release of all the refugee and asylum seeker children incarcerated by the Australian government.

There will be speakers, music and highly visual protests against the plight of young children being held in indefinite detention.

These grandmothers are united in their horror at the heartless treatment and psychological damage inflicted on vulnerable, innocent children and are determined to take their campaign to every federal MP and even to the steps of Parliament House if necessary.

They are calling on all Australians to join with them in demanding the immediate release of all asylum seeker and refugee children in detention.

With their years of wisdom, compassion and determination, these grandmothers could well become the most formidable opponents of the heartless policies of the Minister for Immigration, Scott Morrison.

MC of the launch will be well-known actor, comedian and radio personality Denise Scott. Speakers will be Dr Gwenda Davey AM, coordinator of the Grandmothers initiative and Pamela Curr, Refugee Rights Advocate, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Speeches will be interspersed with songs from folk and blues singer Margret Roadknight.

The grandmothers will display 1000 paper dolls, representing the nearly 1000 children held in detention, including those held on Nauru and Christmas Island. The grandmothers will call on the Australian government to FREE THE CHILDREN.

And one thousand paper chains will be cut by the grandmothers, to the accompaniment of chanting and percussion instruments.

As mentioned in the media release, some of the grandmothers were linked by a black paper chain, the cutting of which marked the formal launch:

showing the paper chain

Others wore rows of the paper dolls that symbolised the nearly one thousand children currently in detention:
Banner of Grandmothers against ... Also showing the paper dolls

Apart from Dr Davey, whose account of the treatment endured by children in the camps brought tears to the eyes of many present, Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre focused on the contrast between the humane way asylum seekers arriving in Italy are treated with the brutality of Australia’s ‘welcome’. Folk and blues singer Margret Roadknight provided apposite music for the occasion, including one song by Indigenous Canadian singer/somgwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, and MC was another well known figure, Denise Scott.
Many of those present wore purple scarves, as can be seen in the accompanying photos, along with placards and mostly percussion instruments. At the end, following a photo op for the benefit of the Age photographer, there was what seemed to be an impromptu rendering of We Shall Overcome, perhaps in response to Pamela Curr’s earlier stirring call to action. Footage from the event was aired this evening in the main, 7pm, ABC news, and a camera crew from Channel Nine was also present, so it may have been covered there too. At time of writing nothing has appeared on the Age website.[Update 7 September – a report has been published in the Sunday Age. See here.]

More photos:

Dr Gwenda Davey

Dr Gwenda Davey

Denise Scott

Denise Scott

Margret Roadknight

Margret Roadknight

Pamela Curr

Pamela Curr

Placard showing photo of Hamid Kehasaei, who died that morning

By the stall of the Refugee Action Collective

More placards:

Placard with call for help

Placard addressing the Prime Minister - what if it was your child?

More placards

More placards

At the end - not quite the whole gathering

At the end – not quite the whole gathering

Group on steps singing We Shall Overcome

Impromptu choir

Bust the Budget Rally and March – 6 July 2014

Child with homemade placard - Save Peppa Pig

An extraordinary diversity of protests and protesters marked this, the third Bust the Budget rally in Melbourne. Asylum Seekers, the ABC, Unions, Climate Change, Medicare, Education … the list goes on. Also pronounced was the anger against Tony Abbott and resentment at his departures from pre-election statements and promises, as the selection below may indicate.Total numbers were hard to gauge – as The Age reports, figures from twelve to twenty thousand were being quoted – but they were at least comparable to the earlier protests, and that in spite of the weather and the timing (in the middle of the school holidays). Some idea of the overall size can be got, however, from the fact that the march up St Kilda Road from the rally location opposite the Arts Centre took just over twenty minutes to pass a single point (continuous video of this stage of the march is in preparation and should be available in the next day or so, by way of confirmation).[Video added 7 July.] Apart from the new starting point, the event took the traditional form: rally with speeches followed by a march through the CBD, ending at Parliament House with more speeches. These divisions are loosely followed in the photos below, but first a few overviews:
At the start –

Also at the start

Part of the rally

Another view

On the March –

Head of march coming up Bourke Street

March arriving at Parliament House

Final rally at Parliament House (the rain that had held off until now prompted a quick unfurling of brollies) –

Looking over head and brollies towards Parliament House

From the rally at Queen Victoria Gardens –

A selection of placards targeting Tony Abbott (some captured during the march)-

The March sets off –

Peppa Pig leads march up St Kilda Road

From the March (rather few, but see forthcoming video for full coverage) –

A few more from the end –

Woman sitting on kerb with dog

Resting at the end

Baby Boomers for Climate Change Action - placard spotted at Parliament House

Spotted at the end

Woman cradling small dog

Another dog getting a deserved rest

Walk for Justice for Refugees – Palm Sunday 13 April

Banner at head of march - Jusitice for Refugees

Growing community awareness of the reality of the current Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers has led to a revival of protest, with attendances at rallies not seen for years. Yesterday’s turnout in Melbourne was variously put at ‘as many as 3,000’ (ABC) to a rather extravagant ‘60,000 might be a conservative figure’ (post on the Walk for Justice Facebook page). Asked for my estimate by one of the organisers towards the end of the event I put the figure at ‘close to 10,000’, and there now seems to be fairly general agreement with this, at least on Facebook. Mainstream media, in so far as it reports the event at all, persists in putting it much lower. However that may be, it was an impressive demonstration.*

(The tag cloud doesn’t include items in the pre-2008 archive, so for anyone who might be interested or wants a reminder, here is a list of some earlier refugee rallies in Melbourne as reported here, including two on Palm Sunday:

2002
Rally and March for Refugees – 2 February
Rally for Refugees – Palm Sunday, 24 March
National Day of Action [for refugees] – 23 June
Tampa Day – Rally for Justice – 30 August

2003
World Refugee Day – 22 June

2004

Refugee Hope March – Palm Sunday, 4 April

World Refugee Day – 20 June
)

The format was conventional**: music to warm up, speakers, march, more speakers to wrap up. Music beforehand was provided by Celine Yap, aka Little Foot – folk, Kavisha Mazzella, and Victorian Trade Union Choir; other choirs were stationed at stages along the route of the march down Swanston Street to the gardens opposite the Arts Centre. Speakers included the Rev. Alistair McCrae, past president of the Uniting Church of Australia, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, and three young asylum seekers, one of whom read a harrowing letter from a mother in detention… MC was Corinne Grant.

Views of the rally on the State Library lawns:

In the crowd at the State Library:

On the march:

At the end (we were not able to stay for the closing speeches, but left to the sound of Little Foot singing Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” …):

*Some media reports:

The Age

The Guardian
PressTV

** Though a new feature was the ringing of church bells following special services at the cathedrals and other churches – see the media release below:

City Church Bells to Ring out for Walkers on Palm Sunday

Across Australia in cities and regional towns Palm Sunday is being observed by Faith communities, Academics, School students and ordinary Australians who are deeply disturbed by the current treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

In Melbourne bells from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and St.Michael’s and St.Francis churches will ring out across the city as the WALK FOR JUSTICE FOR REFUGEES begins. The walk is organised by the Refugee Advocacy Network, working with a broad coalition of groups from across all ages, faiths and political persuasions.

Churchgoers from St. Paul’s, St. Patrick’s, Wesley Church and the Welsh Church will converge on the State Library to join the Walk. Church leaders, Professors and academics, Union leaders, School students, Community and Human Rights groups as well as politicians from the Greens and Labor parties will gather at the State Library. Choirs will serenade the walkers at the major intersections along Swanston Street.

Speaking on behalf of the Refugee Advocacy Network, Sister Brigid Arthur said: “We are walking for Justice for Refugees, because ‘stop the boats’ is not a policy worthy of Australia. It’s a cruel way of shirking our moral and legal obligations. People have a right to seek asylum in Australia regardless of how they travel here”.

Sister Brigid went on to say: “If we are genuinely concerned to stop people drowning at sea, then we must provide, safer ways for people to seek asylum in Australia. We must work closely with other countries not to stop the boats, but to protect vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution.”

Australians are calling for an end to the current policies. They are asking that we:

• Stop sending asylum seekers offshore and process claims for asylum here in Australia

• Close Australia’s detention centres

• Arrange for fair & speedy processing of Asylum Claims and Family Reunion

• Stop deporting people to places of danger

• Substantially increase our refugee quota

Walkers for Justice for Refugees will gather on Palm Sunday 13th April from 1.30pm for a 2.00 pm.
Start at the State Library, Cnr Swanston & La Trobe Streets Melbourne before setting off for Princes Bridge.

Contact Sister Brigid Arthur 0408101134
Marie Hapke 0409252673
Pamela Curr 0417517075

Close Manus Island – Rally for Refugees 1 March 2014

Overview of rally at State Library
[Note – this a stitched image and may show slight discrepancies at the seams]

As mentioned in the previous post, the Refugee Action Collective called a rally at the State Library today to protest at the treatment of asylum seekers, calling specifically for the closure of the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, but also an end to mandatory detention and an enquiry into the death of Reza Barati, as well as the resignation of Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Attendance was probably not far short of 3000, enough to fill the lawns. Speakers included Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young as well as former detainee Ali Bakhtiavandi and representatives of the Kurdish and Tamil communities. We shall leave others to report on the speeches and content ourselves with the following gallery of photos from the rally, plus a few from the ensuing march to Federation Square, which we were not able to follow to the end.
See the previous post for various links, including this one to the relevant Facebook page for updates: https://www.facebook.com/events/1398283463766506/