By Bonnie Cassen
The annual Palm Sunday refugee rally hosted by Refugee Action Collective Illawarra (RACI) is on this Sunday 28th March at 12pm in the Crown Street Mall amphitheatre. The action is part of a wider national event aiming to raise awareness and pressure governments to release and resettle refugees in both on and offshore detention.
The rally demands include permanent visas for all refugees, income and welfare support, release of all refugees from detention, and an end to offshore detention.
The campaign has locally garnered broader support from local football team the Wollongong Wolves who together with RACI and Amnesty International wrote and published a letter to Illawarra MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones about the situation of refugees in offshore and Medivac detention.
Yesterday Wollongong Wolves took time out of a training session at the Albert Butler Memorial Park, Primbee, to publicise the letters with head coach Luke Wilkshire, and to call on the local MPs to urge the Government to accept the New Zealand offer to take those refugees and asylum seekers still in PNG or on Nauru.
In onshore processing there are approximately 1400 refugees still in detention. Many are imprisoned across Australia in Sydney and Darwin, but only a handful remain in the hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne that have been the focus of sustained protests by activists since May 2020. There are still a small number that remain in the offshore detention in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru.
RACI spokesperson Dr. Marg Perrot praised the efforts of protestors in Brisbane and Melbourne outside the hotels used as detention centres, saying
"These protests are the reason these refugees finally get to taste freedom for the first time in eight years. The only way we’ll achieve the release for all refugees imprisoned by the Australian government is to keep fighting.”
The Australian government currently detains 240 refugees on PNG and Nauru, and an increasing number on Christmas Island - newly reopened to function as another detention facility. It was first used for the Tamil family of four from Biloela, Priya and Nades Murugappan and their two young Australian-born daughters, Tharunicaa and Kopika, who have now been isolated in detention for three years. However, more refugees are being detained in the facility as time wears on.
Medivac refugees released into the community are struggling for basic facilities and resources, again local refugee advocates picking up the tab for the Australian government. Just this month a few refugees elected to return to Nauru rather than stay in Australia in yet another limbo.
Dylon Tomasi, Education Officer for the Wollongong Undergraduate Student Union and RACI activist says
“The imprisonment and torture of refugees by the Australian government is a bipartisan affair. The government shows no interest in the families lives they’re destroying.
The ALP restarted offshore detention and the Liberals have perfected it to the point racist parties in Europe are applauding it.”
The Wollongong protest and rally includes a range of speakers from professionals and experts, to community advocates as well as refugee voices. There will be music, a march through the streets led by Radical Drummers, and music performances including local musicians John T and friends as well as Snez who has written a song especially for the Palm Sunday rally.
Berry is also holding a Palm Sunday Refugee Rally this Sunday 12 pm, Broughton Court, Queen Street, Berry.