A diverse movement consisting of doctors, ministers of religion, academics, writers, teachers, state premiers, anarchists and thousands of people appalled by the Australian Government’s cruel and inhumane actions in the name of ‘saving lives’ are taking direct action to end offshore detention of asylum-seekers. Ten days ago the Australian Government won a court case on technicalities that ruled the offshore gulags were legal. In the wake of that ruling the Government made it clear that it intends to proceed with the removal to Nauru of over 70 refugee children – including 37 babies. Immediately, ministers of religion across Australia offered their churches of worship as sanctuary to the familes of those threatened. Just over a week ago tens of thousands of Australians demonstrated in cities throughout the continent that saw speeches by anarchists in Melbourne calling for mass civil disobedience until offshore processing was ended. During this last week traffic on a busy highway in Melbourne was disrupted by pro-refugee abseiling protesters. Now, the latest example of this alliance of direct actionists has seen doctors at the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane refusing to discharge a baby who was scalded in an accident while in Nauru and who is about to be transferred again to the gulag by Government guards…
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 3, 2016
…The stand-off at the Lady Cilento hospital continues: doctors there have stated that to discharge the baby – nicknamed ‘Asha’ – would see her being removed to an unsafe environment. But in refusing to adhere to the doctors’ demands, the Government is merely succeeding in digging a deeper hole for itself.
267 asylum seekers, most of whom were held on Nauru and were brought to Australia for medical treatment, were party to the High Court challenge to the Government. They include 37 babies and 54 children. They can now be removed to Nauru after 72 hours notice.
After the failure of the court challenge, several leading clergy offered to provide sanctuary to refugees in their churches and cathedrals. (The Federal Government refused to back down.)
Last weekend the Victorian state premier Daniel Andrews said in a letter to the Australian prime minister that the 267 asylum seekers would be welcome to stay in Victoria and that housing and other faciliities would be provided to them. Other state premiers as well as the ACT made similar offers. The Federal government, however, remains unmoved by these offers.
Last Saturday, it was reported that more than 60 Australian writers – including Nobel laureate JM Coetzee and Booker prize winners Thomas Keneally and Peter Carey – have written to the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull and immigration minister Peter Dutton condemning the government’s offshore detention policies as “brutal” and “shameful”.
Mid-week, two protesters absailed from a bridge over the Eastern Freeway in Melbourne to hang a huge banner supporting the refugees (the two remained dangling for three hours).
On Wednesday and Thursday hundreds of teachers at schools across Australia participated in school based actions, holding signs and banners saying “Let Them Stay”, “Close The Camps”, and “Education Not Detention”.
Meanwhile, Australian Rabbis have backed the bid from Anglican churches to offer the group of asylum seekers sanctuary. “We stand in solidarity with the Churches across the country that have offered protection and sanctuary for the asylum seekers who face return to Nauru,” rabbis from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide said in a joint statement. “The Jewish community knows and understands the refugee narrative too well. For, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has said: ‘We once stood where they now stand.’ We resist letting history repeat itself.’ As Jewish community leaders, we are deeply concerned about the group of 267 vulnerable men, women and children who may be returned to detention on Nauru. We stand proudly in defiance of such treatment.”
The wider campaign is, of course, not just about Baby Asha, or the 267 refugees who are to be returned to Nauru, but about ALL the refugees who have been kidnapped on the high seas by the Australian navy (under Government orders) and imprisoned on Nauru and Manus, as well as all the other refugees detained on the Christmas Island gulag or in the various detention centres across Australia. These refugees and asylum-seekers suffer because neither the ruling Liberal-National coalition, nor the Labor Opposition, have the slightest notion of what is right or wrong: their actions are entirely about political expediency, votes and power. Their refuge: the reactionary underbelly of racist Australia.
To see a catalogue of abuse at Nauru (and Manus Island) and Australian Government corruption, click here.
Below are two letters by state premiers to the Australian PM.