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Protesters rally in Sydney to demand justice for refugees

Today, community activists gathered outside Town Hall to protest against the Federal Government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees amid multiple crises across Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of Andy Park.

Hundreds gathered at Town Hall yesterday to rally against the Morrison Government’s continued mistreatment and oppression of refugees. 

The rally was hosted by the Refugee Action Coalition (RACs) and joined by the Tamil Refugee Council (TRC), Teachers for Refugees NSW, the NTEU and NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA). 

Protest chair and prominent Tamil activist Renuga Inpakumar criticised the persecution of refugees in Australia. Inpakumar addressed the discrepancy between the government’s support of Ukrainian refugees while turning a blind eye to refugees in the Tamil community. 

SRC Refugee Rights Officer Annabel Pettit criticised politicians like the Federal Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke, for Australia’s offshore detention policy, and noted that this was a systemic problem borne out of capitalism.

NSWNMA representative Michael Whaites condemned the denial of refugees’ right to access healthcare. As a unionist, Whaites extended solidarity to workers on temporary visas “entrapped in poverty through insecure and unsafe work”. 

Sudanese community activist Maysoon Elinigoumi contextualised the plight of refugees as part of a broader fight against the “international world order that allows systems which crush people trying to thrive”. 

“Our governments have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to do the right thing,” Elinigoumi said.

Several testimonies from refugees provided an insight into the lived experiences of individual victims of such systematic oppression. Thanush Selvarasa, a refugee who was recently released from Melbourne’s Park Hotel, spoke of the need for the community to “make noise” through collective action. 

Rohingya refugee and community youth leader Rohingya refugee and community youth leader Asma Nayim Ullah spoke of her inability to access HECS and explained how temporary visas oppress refugees and deny them equal rights. 

“You do not know the importance of such things unless you do not have them,” Ullah said. 

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition also advocated for a rejection of the Liberal Party in the 2022 Federal Election, but demanded that refugees and activists transcend the confines of the two-party system.

“We need to uproot the system which perpetuates the discrimination and keeps everybody as less than second-class citizens,” Rintoul said.

Protesters marched from Town Hall to Circular Quay, chanting to the rhythm of drums played by activists from the Tamil Refugee Council. 

The rally was held ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.