Palm Sunday rallies refugee support
About 2,000 people gathered at Belmore Park in the CBD for this year’s Palm Sunday rally and march through Broadway to Victoria Park in Camperdown. The event focused on support for refugees.
After an Acknowledgement of Country by Wiradjuri woman Bronwyn Penrith and songs from the Sydney Trade Union Choir, speakers at Belmore Park included ex-Socceroo captain Craig Foster; unionist Judith Wright; church representatives Fr Claude Mostowik, Fr Shenouda Mansour and the Rev. John Barr; anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Vince Scappatura; journalist Dr Anna Broinowski; and human rights advocate Shukufa Tahiri, who is also a Hazara and former refugee.
Ms Tahiri, representing the Refugee Council of Australia, talked about the Choose Humane campaign, which calls for an end to offshore processing, fair treatment of people seeking asylum, reform to the immigration detention system, a larger and more responsive refugee and humanitarian program, and improved engagement in Asia (diplomacy, aid and resettlement initiatives).
The pressure to dismantle offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru is growing. Prime Minister Scott Morrison only narrowly avoided defeat in parliament in December over children on Nauru and medical transfers from the offshore camps. Still, there are now over 600 refugees from Nauru and Manus Island in Australia due to legal action and political pressure. They remain in limbo, without permanent visas or accommodation support. An acute health crisis faces the more than 400 refugees remaining on Manus Island and Nauru, many of whom have been refused entry to third countries.
Labor is the favourite to win the federal election on May 18 and remains committed to maintaining offshore detention, refusing to bring the refugees to Australia. It says it wants to send them to third countries. The United States has taken close to 500, including children and their families (who must repay the US government the cost of their airfares), and New Zealand’s offer of 150 places per year still stands.
“Some politicians have made it clear they intend to run a shocking fear campaign against people seeking asylum at this election, seeking to divide us against our fellow human beings,” Ms Tahiri said. “We have a unique opportunity to show these politicians that we reject the politics of fear and will vote for candidates that uphold our shared values of decency, respect and safety.”