Students Rally for Refugee Rights29 March 2018
On 25 March, thousands of people attended a Palm Sunday rally at the State Library to demonstrate support for refugees and to call on the federal government to close down detention centres.
The lawns of the State Library were filled with activists carrying banners of all colours and sizes advocating for the humane treatment of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.
The University of Melbourne’s student contingent—composed of members of the Melbourne University Anti-Racism Collective and the University of Melbourne Student Union—marched alongside other groups and individuals at the rally.
Andie Moore, one of the organisers of the University of Melbourne contingent, said, “It was amazing to see so many students joining us in the rally for refugee rights. When asylum seekers are being tortured in the name of our government, students need to be at the forefront demanding change—particularly as our government cuts funding to universities to ensure costly detention facilities stay open.”
The Palm Sunday rally featured several speakers from religious and social organisations and a refugee currently on Manus Island. Abdul Aziz Adam, originally from Sudan, has been imprisoned in Manus Island for over four years.
“It’s been nearly five years of trauma and so much suffering. Yet, we are still stuck in limbo … What kind of borders are you trying to protect?” Adam’s words echoed through a choppy phone connection as the crowd stood solemnly.
In the last four years, nine refugees have died due to the conditions at these detention centres. Refugees continue to face physical and sexual abuse, inadequate medical care as well as mental health issues due to their indefinite detainment.
On 16 March, students from the Melbourne Uni Anti-Racism Collective also staged a sit-in at the Department of Immigration to protest the deportation of the Tamil asylum seeker family.
The family was removed from their Queensland home and put in a Melbourne detention centre, where they are currently awaiting deportation to Sri Lanka after being denied refugee status. Minutes before their flight to Sri Lanka, they had been given a temporary legal reprieve from deportation.