Stand Up for Refugees: There is a Better Way
Photo by Jeffery Chan, Canberra Times, shows Canberra Interfaith Forum vice-chairman Harry Oppermann, RAC organiser John Minns, UnionsACT Sec. Alex White, former Save the Children worker & Nauru whistle-blower Tobias Gunn, & Australian Muslim Voice president Diana Abdel Rahman.
Canberrans turned out in large numbers on Sunday to the rally organised by the Refugee Action Committee.
Vintage Reds joined the Unionists for Refugees contingent which marched into Garema Place under its banner, along with Labor for Refugees, Academics for Refugees, the Greens, and many other groups. It was a dynamic way to start things off, with banners and flags and colourful union T-shirts, and was much appreciated by the assembled crowd.
Moya Simpson and John Shortis performed their song, “We are all in the Same Boat“, before a really fine list of speakers addressed the rally.
Here is some of what we heard:
- If you haven’t been through chaos and war, you need to hear stories of what people havebeen through, to understand that they felt prepared to do anything, to risk anything, to get themselves and their children to safety;
- The conditions we have sent asylum seekers to live in, on Manus Island and Nauru, are brutal and shameful; not even daily food and water provision is up to any kind of decent standard, at a cost of about $400,000 per detainee annually (over $1000 per day). Violence and self-harm are common;
- Australia has managed large numbers of refugees before, at the time of the Vietnamese “boat people”. Those seeking asylum had their claims processed in countries of South-East Asia where they had first arrived, and apart from a few highly visible boat arrivals, most Vietnamese found to be refugees came to this country as refugees should still be coming — on a plane;
- UnionsACT secretary Alex White said asylum seekers should be allowed to work in the community.