A report by Kate Thresher

This year I became involved with the Refugee Rights Action Network. I have always been interested in this issue, however it was only this year that I met some people at the Murdoch University RRAN stall. I decided to do something so I started attending the weekly RRAN meetings and volunteered for the opportunity to begin visiting people detained in Yongah Hill Detention Centre. Through this I became active in organising the Community Candle Light Vigil to highlight the persecution of Vietnamese asylum seekers and Australia’s efforts to deny them protection.

I was also given the opportunity to go to the Canberra Convergence to protest for the humane treatment of asylum seekers. Participating in the convergence was a great experience and one I would like to share with all RRANers (both existing and prospective). The following is an account of my trip to Canberra.

Jet-lagged from the flight the day before, Tanya and I woke up at 6am on 18th November and walked down to Eddy St to catch the bus to Canberra. We were both in Sydney for the first time for the National Convergence against the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers by the Government. We boarded the bus and were surrounded by new faces and people of all different ages and backgrounds. After coming straight out of high school, and having the same arguments about asylum seekers with my peers time and time again, it was great to suddenly be surrounded by people who completely empathised with the desperate situation these people were in. The bus trip was also a great networking opportunity and gave us the chance to swap ideas and advice with people from all over the country.

When we got off the bus in Canberra the amazing gathering of people greatly overshadowed Parliament house. The Sydney bus joined to make up around 600 people from all over the country who had come for one reason; to protest for the human rights of asylum seekers who are denied a voice. Immediately a smile spread across my face as I looked around at the people standing there holding signs up proudly with slogans such as “No crime to seek asylum”. We joined the group with an unmistakable feeling of belonging that we were not isolated in this fight.

We then heard from speakers from all different backgrounds, including asylum seekers who had come here by boat, recounting the pain they had experienced in their countries of origin, such as Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. We also heard from people who had come here by boat about the appalling treatment they received once here. For example a man who came here at age 10 and was locked up in Nauru for 3 years.

Preachers, union leaders and community members followed this and expressed their solidarity with the refugee rights campaign. We also heard from Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens Senator from South Australia, condemning the human rights violations committed by the current Coalition Government and the previous Labor Government. Hanson-Young slammed the arrogance and secrecy of current Immigration Minister for the Coalition, Scott Morrison. She continued on to inform us about her fight in parliament and the upcoming Senate vote to disallow temporary protection visas (which was successfully passed on 2nd December).

We then created a circle of solidarity around the large grassed area at the front of Parliament house. At 3:30pm, the two Sydney buses headed to the Papua New Guinea Embassy (PNG). We had been asked whether we wanted someone from Perth to talk and Victoria volunteered. She gave an impressive speech about the appalling conditions asylum seekers are met with on Manus Island, including exposure to conflict between the PNG police and military forces.

After this we headed back on our 3.5 hour journey to Sydney. At this point everyone was tired, however quiet conversations continued throughout the long journey back. I had the opportunity to sit next to a Hazara man; we chatted and he taught me some Hazaragi words. It struck me as such a beautiful thing that throughout all this chaos and cruelty there could be such a humane exchange between people from completely different backgrounds.

I had only joined RRAN in around July this year. For me this trip to Canberra was a fantastic experience as it gave me the chance to see a wider picture of the Refugee Rights campaign. It was an inspiring trip which has given me some great information on how to help build a successful refugee campaign and connections for future involvement in RRAN. I would like to thank RRAN for giving me this fantastic opportunity; it is one I have not taken lightly.

If you would like to learn how you can be involved in the campaign for the rights of refugees please get in contact with us. You can reach us on email info@rran.org, call or text us on 0417 904 329 or join us at one of our weekly meetings each Monday from 6.30pm at the Activist Centre (U15/5 Aberdeen Street, Perth. Just north of the McIver Train Station).

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Human Rights Day Action

Stop Abbott’s attacks on Human Rights
Justice for Refugees

Join the Refugee Rights Action Network to mark Human Rights Day and to demand an end to human rights abuses in Australia.

These include:
* end mandatory detention
* allow refugee boats to land
* no offshore processing
* welcome refugees into the community

3pm Sun 8 December

Murray Street Mall (near Perth Underground Station)

Attend on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/events/1472528062971821

Visit: facebook.com/rran.org

DOWNLOAD: A4 Poster

DOWNLOAD: 4 x A6 flyers

 

Recent Catholic Asylum Seekers from Vietnam

Please join the solidarity vigil:

6:15pm, Fri 8 Nov

St Mary’s Cathedral,
17 Victoria Square, Perth

There are currently around 300 Catholic asylum seekers detained in the Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre just outside Northam, and hundreds more detained in detention centres throughout Australia. These people are fleeing religious persecution from the Vietnamese government predominantly in the town of Vinh.

These attacks include large groups of police, army, militiamen, and thugs who assault priests and the faithful.

Recently governmetn forces seized the chapel Con Cuong, desecrated the Eucharit Host, and smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary. Fleeing this ongoing persecution, hundreds of people have resorted to taking the perilous boat journey from Vietnam to Australia to seek asylum.

Of particular concern to refugee advocates is taht the Australian Department of Immigration are allowing a branch of the Vietnamese pollice to enter the detention centres and interrogate these asylum seekers. Following these interrogations, some have been so frightened that they have taken desperate measures such as selfharm, attempted suicide and escape. Additionally, families of the people interviewed, still in Vietnam, have faced increased persecution including harassment and arrest.

Another significant area of concern is that the Australian Department of Immigration is using the so-called “screening out” process to refuse large numbers of Vietnamese asylum seekers to enter teh refugee determination process. This means their claim for asylum will not be hear and that they will be deported to danger in Vietnam.

One of the basic tenets of the UN Refugee Convention is the protection of those who are persecuted for their religious beliefs. We hope to join with the Australian Catholic community to call upon our government to live up to its responsibilities. They must refuse to allow the persecutors of Vietnamese asylum seekers to interrogate them in Australian facilities. They must hear their claims for asylum and judge them on their merits.

 

The current approach of inflicting ever more cruelty on refugees, including dumping them on our poorest neighbours, will cost many lives and billions of dollars, and is wrong. The right way forward needs a commitment to a genuine regional approach that cares for refugees with the kind of political leadership shown after the Vietnam War.

On the 31st of August, several leading legal, political, humanitarian and human rights experts joined over 300 people to discuss genuine and effective responses to this complex humanitarian and political issue. The panellists were Julian Burnside, Senator Scott Ludlam (Australian Greens), Rosemary Hudson-Miller (Uniting Church), Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny (Curtin University) and Phil Chilton (RRAN).

Co-sponsored by the Greens (WA), Uniting Church, Curtin University Centre for Human Rights Education, Human Rights Centre and the Refugee Rights Action Network

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Rally for Refugees

There is nothing illegal about crossing a border to seek asylum. Refugees are not “illegal” and should have their human rights respected. This rally is calling for an end to the “PNG solution”, an end to offshore processing, an end to mandatory detention and for freedom for refugees.

1pm, Sat 24 August

Murray Street Mall, Perth City

“let them land, let them stay”

Organised by Refugee Rights Action Network

Attend on FaceBook: www.facebook.com/events/768130646539128

Vigil outside Melissa Parke’s office
To to demonstrate community opposition to the PNG “solution” and Ms Parkes’ support for abandonment of the refugee convention.

4pm, Thursday 15 Aug
Melissa Parke’s office, 62 Wray Ave, Fremantle

We will be delivering copies of petitions we have been gathering signatures on opposing the off shore processing of asylum seekers.

 

On the 1st of July, we announced that we were moving from our old Facebook group to our new Facebook page.  Since then, nearly 600 people have liked our page, and our rally events have reached over 8,000 people!

And while we’ve experimented with a bit of paid Facebook advertising to help promote our rallies, we’d like to try something even better — Donate Your Account.

What is Donate Your Account?

In a nutshell, Donate Your Account (DYA) allows people to ‘donate’ their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts. Well, almost. A better way of putting it is that it allows you to share your accounts with groups that you like so they can make a limited number of posts on your behalf. These posts are clearly identified as donated, but since they’re coming from your account, they are seen by all of your friends — and all of this is done automatically so you don’t even need to share them yourself (unless you want to add a comment or introduction). Also, you get to choose how many posts you want to share — the current options are one per day, one per week and one per month.

What this means to RRAN is that instead of our posts being seen by 600 people, we could very easily reach over 10,000 people. And we could share information about our events, myth busters and important news stories with your friends without having to run paid Facebook ads.

What exactly will we publish?

At the moment, we have three DYA campaigns — what we publish through your account depends on which of the campaign(s) you choose to sign up for:

  • Refugee Rights Action Network WA, our general campaign which we’ll use to share information about coming RRAN events and important fact sheets and news updates;
  • RRAN WA Myth-busters, which will be used to share myth-busters and fact-checking information; and
  • RRAN WA Dispatches, which we’ll use to share investigative reports and findings on government and corporate policies and abuses.

Also, please note that the number of posts you choose to donate are an upper limit — especially for the latter two campaigns, we are unlikely to share more than a couple of stories per week. Plus you can always change your donation.

So if you’d like to help out the campaign, you can do so in four easy steps:

 

Step 1: Click on one or more of the above links

Step 2: Click on ‘Donate Facebook’:

Step 3: In order to share posts with your friends, DYA needs access to your friend list; click ‘OK’:

Step 4: Choose who you want to share our posts with (we’d recommend ‘Friends of friends’ or ‘Friends’, but you can go public too):

Step 5: Choose your donation level and click ‘Donate Your Facebook Account’:

 

That’s it!  Thank you for helping us spread the word and the facts. And if you want to review or change your DYA settings, just go to My Apps on Facebook, and click on ‘Donate Your Account’.

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After an excellent turnout at last Saturday’s rally, lets keep up the pressure on the government and the Coalition. In the lead-up to the election it is critical that we maintain the momentum and express our outrage through further protests.

The government has increased the vilification of refugees with an advertising blitz worth millions of dollars. They have so much blood on their hands. It was revealed this week that rescue attempts of refugees in distress at sea were deliberately delayed. Meanwhile thousands languish in detention centres until their spirit is crushed. We can’t allow this to continue.

Check out the facebook event here, click attending and be sure to invite your friends!

Rally again to show your opposition to the current policy and to help win a policy of closing all detention centres and welcoming refugees.

1pm Sat 3 August
Murray Street Mall, Perth City

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Join the Refugee Rights Action Network this Saturday the 27th of July, 1pm in the Murray St Mall to protest against Rudd’s policy changes to asylum seeker processing.

You can find the facebook event by clicking here. Please click attending and invite your friends.

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On Saturday July 20, between 200-300 people protested in Perth against Rudd’s extreme plan to never again allow refugees arriving by boat to be settled in Australia. The protest was organised with less than 24 hours notice.

(Similar rallies were held in other cities and were well attended too.)

Then on Monday, 45 people attended the biggest meeting ever of the Refugee Rights Action Network to plan further action. We’ve organised another rally for this coming Saturday:

1pm Sat 27 July

Murray Street Mall, Perth city

An important moment has been reached in the campaign for refugee rights and whether this is your first rally or you’ve been to many, we need to demonstrate now that we will not allow this abject betrayal of human rights to go unchallenged.

This policy will not stop boats. It will only punish the innocent people who come to Australia seeking our help.

It is important to remember that this policy can be defeated and actions and protests like this coming Saturday are an important part of making that happen.

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DOWNLOAD: 4 x A6 flyers

DOWNLOAD: A4 posters