Socialist Worker

Anger at Pacific island camps grows in Australia

by James Supple in Sydney
Issue No. 2491

Protesting for refugee rights (Pic:

Australia has seen an explosion of grassroots action in support of refugees. It comes as the government tries to remove 267 asylum seekers to detention centres on the remote Pacific islands of Manus and Nauru.

Outrage exploded after the Australian High Court ruled that dumping refugees on Nauru was legal under Australian law.

All 267 were brought to Australia to access medical treatment. They include 37 babies born in Australia to asylum seeker parents and 54 other children.


Thousands have joined snap rallies around the country to demand that the government “let them stay”.

Churches in Brisbane have offered to defy the law and grant sanctuary to any asylum seeker that the government tries to return. Teachers and academics have organised group photos at workplaces across the country to back the campaign.

Now doctors at a Brisbane hospital are refusing to discharge a 12-month-old baby, Asha, until the government guarantees she will not be removed to Nauru. Medical staff say Nauru is not a safe environment for a baby.

Daily protests and a vigil are being held outside the hospital.

Queensland unions and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (like the TUC) have backed the workers and set up a roster to organise unionists to help maintain the vigil.

The hospital’s stand comes after protests by doctors and medical staff across the country opposing the detention of refugee children last year.

All this represents a significant shift against the bipartisan efforts to keep out refugees.

If this can be turned into union action to disrupt the transfers to Nauru and Manus it will deal a major blow to the government’s “Fortress Australia” policies.

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