“Lock up Dutton, throw away the key, we won’t stop until we free the refugees.”
This was one of the favoured chants heard during the Palm Sunday rally and march in Wollongong.
Hundreds of people gathered in Wollongong Mall on Sunday and called on the Federal Government to close the off-shore detention camps and resettle refugees in Australia.
Speaker after speaker at the Refugee Action Collective Illawarra run event spoke of their anger at the “inhumane” policies and treatment of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.
Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon said the government was becoming “more and more ruthless” in their efforts to stop those people who have fled war, poverty and torture, coming here for some respite.
The Senator told the crowd she was sickened to hear [Home Affairs Minister] Peter Dutton talking about fast-tracking visas for white South African farmers.
We are being compared to Trump’s America, and we are lacking.Alison Battisson
This view was shared by RAC Illawarra spokeswoman Marg Perrott, who said Mr Dutton’s recent statements come at the same time as the community of Biloela bands together to stop the deportation of a Tamil refugee family, indicating the true nature of the government's immigration policies”.
“More and more people are realising that these policies are not about border protection, they are racism, pure and simple. The Government is trying to sow seeds of fear of non-white people in our community,” Ms Perrott said.
Human Rights for All founder and director principal Alison Battisson told the crowd Australia must and can do better.
“We are being compared to Trump’s America, and we are lacking,” she said.
Ms Battisson established the pro-bono law firm which focuses on complex cases and the long term detained, mainly in Australia but also people who have been medically evacuated, of which there have been a lot from Manus and Nauru.
“We have an opportunity to be on the right side of history,” she said.
“When our children look back to see what we were doing at this point, we want to be able to say that we were on the right moral side.
“Today is also an opportunity that should be extended to everyone...educate yourself and look for opportunities to educate others in refugee rights and in why arbitrary detention is wrong.”
Georgine Clarsen, the UOW branch president for the NTEU said we needed to follow the example of Malcolm Fraser, who opened the doors for Vietnamese asylum seekers 40 years ago.
“Today politicians like [Malcolm] Turnbull and [Peter] Dutton, they beat up fears and they exploit insecurities rather than lead the nation to be better,” she said.