Thousands of Australians demonstrated today in every capital city and 13 other towns across the country to call on the Federal Government to immediately evacuate the 600 refugees dumped on Manus Island.
A crowd of more than 1000 in Melbourne blocked city traffic, along with more than 1000 in Sydney and accompanying protests in Brisbane, Adelaide and Hobart. Hundreds also gathered in front of Parliament House in Canberra.
The demonstrations come after hundreds of refugees were violently removed in chaotic scenes from the Manus Island Detention Centre by PNG authorities on Friday, after a tense standoff lasting 3 weeks. The refugees were forced into unfinished and overcrowded new detention centres in Manus Island town.
These moves were supported by the Australian Government despite blockades by Manus locals unhappy at the Australian Government’s decision to leave the refugees on their remote island. International agencies have declared this situation a humanitarian emergency with ill and injured refugees now congregating in Manus town, and observers predicting civil unrest and further violence.
Demonstrators kneeled in the protest position used by refugees and people seeking asylum in the Nauru and Manus Island detention camps camps. Across all rallies a statement was read from Behrouz Boochani, a celebrated journalist and refugee currently held on Manus.
Behrouz stated, “The Australian government and PNG government decided to attack us by force and beat so many of the refugees to force them out… It shows that they could not endure that people in Australia and around the world are hearing our voice…They even killed one of the beautiful dogs that was living with us. That was so cruel and unacceptable. I would like to say that sending people from a prison to another prison camp is not a solution…Our only desire is freedom and safety in any safe country. We are not safe or free now, especially with the Australian Government authorising force to be used against us.”
Paul Oosting, National Director of GetUp, spoke at the Sydney rally and stated, “The overwhelming community response to attend demonstrations this morning illustrate the shock many Australians felt at the scenes this week of authorities beating defenceless refugees with batons, in an effort to move them to new detention facilities on Manus Island.”
Shen Narayanasamy, Human Rights Director at GetUp, who recently returned from a trip where she was smuggled into the Manus Island Detention Centre with a video crew stated, “What I witnessed was a humanitarian emergency, far worse than I had expected. We can only expect further violence in coming days. The Australian Government cannot wait months for resettlement in the US or New Zealand. These refugees must be evacuated to Australia within days while resettlement options are being finalised.”