Socialist Worker

Australian protests for refugee rights grow

by James Supple
Issue No. 2519

Protests in Australia have demanded the closure of offshore refugee detention camps

Protests in Australia have demanded the closure of offshore refugee detention camps (Pic: Solidarity)

A new wave of anger in Australia is engulfing the government over its offshore detention camps for refugees.

Thousands demonstrated across the country last weekend to demand it “bring them here”.

The renewed outcry comes after the leak of over 2000 official ­incident reports showing the scale of the physical and sexual abuse of refugees dumped on the Pacific island of Nauru.

The government tried to dismiss the reports, attacking the media for reporting on them.

But over 100 former detention workers issued a statement ­confirming the truth of the reports and calling for the asylum ­seekers to be brought immediately to Australia.

More whistle-blowers are speaking out, defying threats of jail for doing so.

Katie Price, who spent two years working with families on Nauru, told how, “I watched these children’s lives being destroyed by these camps. They went from energetic, cheeky, normal kids to completely devoid of all emotion.”

Even the government’s own Moss report, released last year, confirmed that the reports of abuse on Nauru were true.

Many refugees on Nauru have been held there for three years. They have been holding daily ­protests since March, sending photos and videos to ­supporters in Australia.

There is also a stand-off over the fate of the detention camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.


In April the country’s Supreme Court found that the detention of asylum seekers there breached its constitution.

The Australian government has now agreed that the camp will close, but is still refusing to take the asylum seekers back.

For three years it has been trying to convince a third country to accept refugees from the camps. But even efforts to bribe poor countries such as Cambodia into taking them have failed. Further court action is

under way in Papua New Guinea to force the Australian government to readmit them.

Government efforts to win votes through scapegoating have failed.

During the recent election, the immigration minister declared that more refugees would only drain the welfare system.

But the government’s vote plunged, and its majority in parliament stands at just one seat.

While the Labour opposition ­continues to support offshore detention, 50 of its election ­candidates and MPs are now on record as opposing elements of the party’s policy.

Six pastors and a nun were arrested after occupying the prime minister’s office on Monday, demanding refugees be let in.

The campaign earlier this year to prevent the return of 267 refugees to Nauru and Manus Island already in Australia succeeded.

Not a single one has been sent back to the offshore camps.

If the workplace actions during the campaign to “let them stay” can turn into actions to “bring them here” the camps could be shut down for good

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