Stand up for refugees | Gathering for a cause
Thousands of Australians united across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to express their concerns and apply further pressure on both sides of politics to act and end the offshore processing of asylum seekers on both Manus Island and Nauru.
The march for solidarity was organised by the Refugee Action Coalition on 11 October 2015, which saw a crowd of approximately 2000 gather at Town Hall, Sydney.
The first speaker to address the crowds was Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong, who opened the event by condemning the lack of policy reform with the succession of the Turnbull government, stating:
“Although we are seeing rallies like this across the country, not just this weekend but many weekends that have passed, that will continue to grow into the future, we [must continue] show [to] the political leadership and the so called political opposition in this country [that they] are failing to reflect the compassion of our community..”
Rally calls for the deportation and sexual abuse of one of the asylum seekers
She continued to address the state of emergency and nationwide disgust over the deportation of 23-year-old Abyan, one of the two Somali refugee women who have fallen victim of sexual violence on Nauru.
Abyan was recently brought to Australia to request medical treatment for a pregnancy she sustained as a result of sexual abuse, following the Nauruan government’s decision to allow all detainees to roam free around the island nation.
According to her statement, which has since been published in various media outlets, she was denied access to her lawyer and translator, and denied emergency health care. Before her lawyers could appeal the decision she was forcibly deported back to Nauru by Australian officials, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton denying that such requests were made.
The events have sparked a series of emergency protests across the country, with eleven students recently being detained after occupying the Department of Immigration Office in Sydney demanding authorities meet Abyan’s needs.
Doctor exposes wrongdoing and suffering of detainees in the hope of stopping it
Highly respected paediatrician David Isaacs, a whistle-blower who still faces two years imprisonment if he discloses information about Nauru under the Border Force Act, also took the stage to express his concerns about the level of torture and suffering he witnessed while working with detainees on Nauru.
Brett Holmes spoke on behalf of the Nurses and Midwives Union; further denouncing the restrictions the Australian Border Force Act 2015 (Cth) has imposed on health care professionals, restricting the reporting of instances of human rights abuses.
He spoke regarding the recent stand off between the staff of the Royal Children’s Hospital and immigration authorities, as hospital staff have refused to discharge asylum seeker children back into detention, with concerns that discharging them back into an unsafe environment would compromise their health.
As Brett Holmes stated:
“This law effectively denies health professionals the ability to fulfil their duty of care to report incidences of abuse, or unfair treatment. Gaoling workers for speaking out about conditions of their employment is a contravention of the International Labour Organisation’s standards on the freedom of expression in the work force. The Border Force Act runs counter to the very protection of workers that the International Union Movement has fought for, for centuries. As a wealthy nation Australia has a moral obligation to do more to address this global humanitarian crisis.”
Also among the speakers was Ian Ritoul a leading spokesperson for the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition and Abdul Hakim a Syrian refugee who fled the civil war and has resettled with his family in Australia.
The supporters then marched through George Street progressing onto Hyde Park where more speakers greeted them in the afternoon.