‘Our voices need to be louder’
Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) — Benalla Branch — is holding a community gathering on July 21 outside the post office on Bridge St.
This event is part of a National Day of Action organised by Australian Refugee Action Network and endorsed by RAR.
This July marks the fifth anniversary of the announcement by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that: ‘‘As of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia’’.
Despite being in conflict with international law, five years later 784 refugees, including 22 children, still languish on Manus Island and Nauru with no clear path to safe resettlement.
Despite these people having been processed and recognised as bona fide refugees, neither side of politics seems to have any interest in ending their suffering and offering them refuge.
In the past five years 12 refugees have died in detention, victims of despair, inadequate medical attention and the insecurity of their environment.
RAR Benalla member Hamish McPherson said it was important to keep shining a light on this issue as the refugees being held there are being kept in poor and degrading conditions.
‘‘The Australian government refuses to accept them,’’ Mr McPherson said.
‘‘These are people who have fled danger in wartorn countries such as Iraq, Syria and Sri-Lanka.
‘‘They just want to start a new life in a safe and peaceful country.
Instead, in the name of deterring further arrivals, they are being held on island prisons without proper housing, education, medical care or hope for the future.
‘‘The Federal Government wants the Australian people to applaud their border policies while ignoring the human suffering they have caused.
‘‘ Is this the Australian ‘fair go’ we claim to stand for?
‘‘We need to show that many people haven’t forgotten the refugees and want to see a fair and humane approach.
‘‘We think that all the refugees should be bought here as as soon as possible to be resettled in safe countries, such as Australia or New Zealand.’’
Mr McPherson said it was disappointing that both major parties supported these off-shore detention centres.
‘‘I think their hard-line approach is increasingly out of touch with the views of people and the kind of country we’d like to be,’’ he said.
‘‘People are questioning why the Federal Minister Peter Dutton refuses to allow even seriously ill adults and children to Australia for medical treatment.
‘‘People have noticed that New Zealand is taking a more compassionate approach, offering to accept some of the refugees.
‘‘There is the Queensland county town of Biloela who are mobilising to try and prevent the deportation of a Sri Lankan Tamil family who arrived by boat in 2013.
‘‘These are signs that many people in both urban and regional Australia don’t accept the current approach and want change.
‘‘We need to make our voices louder and show that punishing refugees is a vote loser not a vote winner.’’
RAR wants the public to put pressure on the Federal Government to bring all recognised refugees on Manus and Nauru to Australia as a first step towards resettlement in safe countries.
Benalla RAR hold regular events, such as information stalls, meetings and movie screenings.
To become involved, phone secretary Jenny Monger on 5762 8088 or email email@example.com
We need to show that many people haven’t forgotten the refugees and want to see a fair and humane approach. Hamish McPherson
Protesting: Rural Australians for Refugees holding a protest in Echuca-Moama last year.