Rally for Support of Refugees and Asylum Seekers
At huge rallies throughout Australia Saturday 21 July, supporters of refugees and asylum seekers vented their anger at the ongoing policies to keep people behind bars. Some of the detainees have been deprived of their freedom for over 6 years.
Yes, that is 6 years behind the wire! And there is no government enthusiasm for the laws to change any time soon – the Australian constitution was formulated on 1 January 1901, via the British Parliament, and is now one of the oldest in the world despite being totally antiquated and out of date.
There were many speeches during the Sydney Town Hall rally with important messages coming from Dulce Muñoz, (Mums for Refugees and Mexican migrant), Avi Selva (Tamil activist and lawyer), Shannen Potter (former Young Labor NSW Vice-President), Lee Rhiannon (Greens senator), Father Dave Smith (eyewitness to Manus detention) and Ian Rintoul (head of RAC).
Among the points raised were:
* The preventable deaths in custody
* Off-shore detention should cease forthwith, while mainland custodial sentences should at least have their time period in custody dropped considerably
* There should be no children in custody
* There should be no punishment because of the transport used by refugees to reach Australia
* We should welcome all refugees and asylum seekers – they are future Australians and need to be given support and respect
* The taxpayers’ money could be spent on worthwhile projects instead of paying foreign governments to mind Australian refugees and asylum seekers
* The refugee intake should be increased immediately
Looking at the cost of housing refugees on Manus Island and Nauru is a very expensive exercise – Senate estimates hearing transcripts show Manus at costing $420 million to build and maintain, giving a total of more than $1.6 billion. Maybe the man in the photograph has even more accurate figures . . . .
The enthusiastic crowd then marched through the southern part of city down to the immigration offices near Central Railway where a brass band welcomed them all.
The main organiser of the rally, Ian Rintoul, had the final words by thanking everyone for their attendance. He emphasised the importance of keeping active for refugees and also writing to our politicians for more positive action.