Late March and April saw mass protests demonstrate the depth of community opposition to Abbott’s war on refugees. In Sydney on April 19, around 3000 people energetically mobilized, demanding an end to offshore processing and calling for a humane refugee policy. The Sydney protest came on the heels of a massive pro-refugee mobilization of 15 000 in Melbourne on Palm Sunday.
The protests coincided with yet more revelations about the criminal conditions faced by refugees in Abbott’s offshore camps. In early April an open letter signed by 24 current and former Save the Children and medical staff revealed that the Immigration Department was aware of women and children being abused on Nauru for 17 months and didn‘t respond.The letter reveals that then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison covered up the abuse and effectively ensured it continued by refusing to act. The letter compounds the findings of the Moss Review that exposed evidence of sexual abuse in the Australian Government run Nauru center.
Along with the protests in Australia, protests by hundreds of refugees on Nauru have rocked the Island throughout the year. A new law decreed on March 23 attempted to restrict the ability of refugees to protest by giving the Nauru Police Commissioner absolute power to ban any demonstration. Refugees have made the law a dead letter by continuing to resist. On April 24, 200 staged a protest against the Australian Government’s attempts to find refugees willing to be dumped in Cambodia. They called for “Justice,” and “Freedom,” and “Cambodia – never, ever.” Peter Dutton has been desperately trying to find refugees who will go along with his “Cambodia Solution” but the exercise has been reduced to a farce.
The damning revelations about conditions on Nauru and the momentum out of the protests in March and April have to be channeled into the July 25 rally outside the Labor national conference in Melbourne. We have to demand a real alternative to Abbott’s brutality and say no to mandatory detention and offshore processing—let them land, let them stay!