Protests and vigils will be held across the northern rivers tonight to urge the federal government to address the global refugee crisis and accept asylum seekers fleeing Syria and other war-torn countries.
The events from 6pm-7pm are being dubbed ‘Light the dark northern rivers’ and will be held in Murwillumbah at Budd Park, Lismore outside the City Hall (on the Bounty Street side) and at Main Beach, Byron Bay.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said around 200 people had already agreed to turn out at the Lismore event in a show of solidarity with asylum seekers caught up in the Syrian conflict.
Organiser of the Murwillumbah event, Carmen Stewart, said the rallies across Australia aimed to ‘shine a light in the darkness and protest our country’s abandonment of the world’s most desperate people, the asylum seekers’.
‘The world is facing a global refugee crisis on a scale we’ve not seen since WWII, but Australia, our lucky country of a fair go for all, is not doing enough,’ Ms Stewart said.
‘We can do better to help these people. We need to do better. In the words of our (NSW) premier Mike Baird, “surely we can do more”’.
Ms Stewart said people gathering at event will light a candle to remember Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy who along with his brother and mother drowned off the coast of Turkey while trying to flee to Europe from Syria.
The boy, she said, ‘represents this tragedy’.
‘We will stand together in solidarity with people across the world who are forced to leave their homes and seek protection,’ she said.
‘We’ll shine a light in the darkness to express our heart-felt desire for a change of response from our federal government. It’s time.
‘We will send a message to the world that our government’s inaction does not represent us, and that the people of the Tweed say welcome to asylum seekers,’ Ms Stewart said.
Organiser of the Byron Bay event, Harsha Prabhu, said, ‘We will stand in solidarity with people across the world who are forced to ask for protection, and in protest of Australia’s abandonment of the world’s most desperate. We will send a message to the world that Australians say “welcome”.’
Prime minister Tony Abbott said his government would ‘step up’ to help and increase its intake of asylum seekers from that part of the world but would said the overall intake of refugees annually would remain the same.
Labor and the Greens have called for an increase in the annual intake as other countries around the world have done.