Kiama pair become boat people for a day

Armed with placards and passion, Kiama’s Harvey Norman and Katie McDermott plan to protest the federal government’s treatment of asylum seekers in Manus Island in Manly today.

Answering a call by the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), the pair will be joined by members of the South Coast Peace and Social Justice group in a rally on ferries across Circular Quay to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office in Manly.

The RAC invited people to become a ‘‘boat person’’ for a day by taking the ferry across the harbour.

The protest follows days of violence in Manus Island detention camps, where one man was killed and countless injured.

Mr Harvey, a merchant seafarer, said he wanted the join the rally to publicise his disagreement with the federal government’s asylum seeker policy.

‘‘There are people who do not agree with the policies and treatment of refugees,’’ he said.

‘‘There should be greater transparency.’’

The seafarer said his passion for the issue was sparked by the Tampa Affair under John Howard’s government in 2001 where a boat carrying asylum seekers was refused entry into Australian waters.

For his friend Ms McDermott, working with refugees and new migrants was an eye-opener into the difficulties they face integrating into Australia.

Her biggest problem with the federal government’s approach to asylum seekers was their rhetoric, she said.

‘‘I believe they have a right to be seeking asylum, the current political rhetoric makes it sound like we are at war,’’ she said.

‘‘I would be looking at increasing the number of refugees that we take in, including those that come by boat.’’

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