A rally to protest the Federal Government’s ‘inhumane treatment’ of asylum seekers held in offshore detention centres is being held in Lismore, and other centres across Australia, today.
The rally outside Page MP Kevin Hogan’s office in Molesworth Street follows a ruling by Australia’s High Court that the government is legally allowed to return 267 vulnerable asylum seekers to Nauru.
Amongst the 267 people are 91 children including 37 babies recently born in Australia. Deportation of these people could happen within days.
Ballina Region for Refugees spokesperson Sue Kelly said it was ‘morally wrong to send these people back to off shore detention’.
Ms Kelly said the Lismore rally would be calling on the government to let the asylum seekers stay in Australia and end off-shore detention.
‘We hope Kevin Hogan will take our message to Canberra,’ she said.
‘Many people in our community are absolutely appalled that this situation is being allowed to continue with no hope for the people detained on Nauru and on Manus Island.
‘Human Rights Commissioner, Gillian Triggs reported systematic abuse of children on Nauru last year.’
Ms Kelly said the government’s own Moss Review reported the same thing.
‘Just yesterday the Australian Human Rights Commission released another report saying that children they have examined who are in detention in Darwin, were amongst the most traumatised they had ever seen,’ she said.
‘Many of those children have spent time at Nauru.”
‘There have been over 30 reported cases of guards sexually assaulting women and children on Nauru, and not one is facing charges.
‘Health professionals and educators are threatened with jail if they speak about conditions in detention centres, the Save the Children contract wasn’t renewed. Who is going to help these people?”
‘If our government is doing the right thing and meeting their obligation to uphold the human rights of these aslyum seekers, why do so many reports contradict what both sides of government is telling us? Who will stand up for these people if we don’t?
‘We are calling on our government to let them stay and to urgently end off-shore detention, it’s an obvious human rights crisis.’
Today’s rally follows announcements yesterday from various churches offering sanctuary to the 267 asylum seekers.
Over ten places of worship in Australia have declared a place of sanctuary for the asylum seekers, a practice used in medieval England to offer refuge from brutal and oppressive forces.
Meanwhile, the High Court decision prompted criticism from the United Nations.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Rupert Colville said the group of asylum seekers were in a fragile state and might have mental health issues.
‘Of course being sent back to this situation may just make them worse,’ he told ABC Radio.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton hit back at the UN warning, insisting that he has the children’s best interests at heart and won’t send them back to harm’s way.
‘We have to be compassionate on one hand but we have to be realistic about the threat from people smugglers,’ he told ABC Radio on Thursday.
Mr Dutton accused refugee advocates of wanting an open border policy that would put people’s lives at risk of drowning at sea.
‘We’re acting in the best interests not only for these children but children that would follow them,’ he said.