Aus­tralians rally for refugees in stand against far-right sen­ti­ment

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Thou­sands of Aus­tralians took part yes­ter­day in ral­lies to wel­come refugees and make a stand against ris­ing far-right sen­ti­ment against for­eign­ers. More than 20,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing prom­i­nent politi­cians, at­tended demon­stra­tions in 25 cities and towns across the coun­try, Mo­ham­mad Al-Khafaji, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Wel­come to Aus­tralia, said.

“Events like this are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant, es­pe­cially when you cel­e­brate and go out in the thou­sands to wel­come refugees and peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum,” Al-Khafaji told Reuters by tele­phone. “They feel like they’ve been marginal­ized, been tar­geted by these far-right rad­i­cal move­ments. They just don’t want to par­tic­i­pate any­more for fear of their lives,” he said. Out­wardly easy-go­ing Aus­tralia has a trou­bling record on eth­nic di­ver­sity.

A White Aus­tralia Pol­icy, which was only dis­man­tled in the late 1960s, fa­vored Euro­pean mi­grants over non­whites. Abo­rig­ines were ad­min­is­tered un­der flora and fauna laws un­til then and re­main far be­hind most peo­ple in lit­er­acy, health and eco­nomic stan­dards. In re­cent months, race re­la­tions have de­te­ri­o­rated, with anti-im­mi­gra­tion rhetoric from far-right groups and once fringe par­ties like Pauline Han­son’s One Na­tion stok­ing di­vi­sive­ness.

Fear of at­tacks by Is­lamist mil­i­tants has also clouded the at­ti­tude of some peo­ple, though there have been no ma­jor such at­tacks in Aus­tralia. The coun­try’s treat­ment of asy­lum seek­ers has been heav­ily crit­i­cized by rights groups over al­le­ga­tions of abuses of peo­ple in de­ten­tion, in­clud­ing sex­ual as­saults of women and chil­dren. Un­der Aus­tralia’s tough im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, asy­lum seek­ers in­ter­cepted trying to reach the coun­try by boat are sent for pro­cess­ing at camps in Nauru or to Manus Is­land in Pa­pua New Guinea and are not el­i­gi­ble for re­set­tle­ment in Aus­tralia.

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said this week con­di­tions on Nauru, where about 400 Aus­tralian-bound asy­lum seek­ers are held, “amount to tor­ture”. La­bor politi­cian Ji­had Dib, a member of the New South Wales state par­lia­ment, told a Syd­ney rally that Aus­tralia was stronger with mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. “What we need to do is make sure ev­ery sin­gle per­son that wasn’t here to­day is aware that our fu­ture is bet­ter when we walk to­gether.” —Reuters

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