Palm Sunday on March 20 saw thousands of people in capital cities across Australia rallying for the rights of asylum seekers facing deportation, and mandatory offshore processing, under the federal government’s cruel refugee policies. The event was organised by various religious groups, refugee advocates and community organisations.
Though well attended, numbers were slightly down than in 2015, despite public awareness being raised by the #LetThemStay campaign in early February. Many people protested and signed petitions calling on the government to allow 267 asylum seekers stay in Australia after they were brought here from offshore detention camps detention for medical treatment.
By contrast, the mass gathering of people at Lady Cilentro Hospital in Brisbane – an action initiated by courageous doctors and nurses who refused to discharge baby Asha to prevent her return to unsafe offshore detention – illustrates how crucial the actions of ordinary working people can be in fighting for change.
The government wastes billions of dollars on inhumane offshore processing, whereas this money would be much better spent allowing refugees to settle in the community while their claims are processed.
This demonstrates the most effective way to change the plight of refugees in this country is to build a more powerful movement by coupling mass protests with direct action by workers to challenge the government’s inhumane refugee policies and put an end to companies profiting from mandatory detention.
By Robyn Trott