About 1500 people marched in Sydney on 24 July to call for justice for refugees. While the Nadesalingam family has made a happy return to the Biloela community after years of uncertainty, showing just how welcoming Australia can be, thousands of asylum seekers are still languishing in detention centres or stuck on temporary visas.
Justice for refugees
It’s 10 years since refugees were sent for “offshore processing” on Manus and Nauru and some are still there. There are also about 1200 refugees who were brought to Australia for urgent medical attention under the short-lived Medevac policy who need permanent visas. Their physical and mental health is suffering and access to medical care is limited.
Contingents from the Rohingya community, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq made up the substantial crowd, which drew the attention of Sunday shoppers. Their ask was simple: “We just need a safe place to call home.”
Many asylum seekers are separated from family; they are not allowed to work and are missing out on education. A refugee from Iran said he hadn’t seen his wife and daughter for more than eight years. His heartbreak and despair were evident in his face.
“We’re here today because we need fundamental change,” Refugee Action Coalition Coordinator Ian Rintoul (pictured top row, centre) said to the rally.
“Our first demand is for permanent visas for all to end offshore detention. We also need an immediate increase to the Afghan intake and for the Albanese government to rectify the Morrison government’s ban on resettlement of refugees from Indonesia.” (Taking refugees from Indonesia discourages perilous boat journeys.)
Newly elected Greens Senator David Shoebridge (pictured top row, far right) also addressed the rally: “No more boat turnbacks, no more offshore detention – let’s make this country decent with a new government,” he said.
“Let’s make sure refugee children and others who want to go to university can go like the rest of us, and can get work, and have a secure pathway to citizenship, and to be a full part of our country.
“Looking out on this crowd gives me enormous hope for where we can take this country. The task is to make this country decent again, to live up to the promise we made when we entered into international agreements to be a place of refuge.
“It’s time to end all temporary protection visas, to end all offshore processing, to not turn around another boat, and for this country to open its arms to the world’s refugees so we can be a decent and fair place. That’s the challenge.”