The Sydney Uni Anti-Racism Collective (ARC) is committed to fighting against racism on all fronts; standing up for the rights of persecuted ethnic minorities both on and off campus.
The University Of Sydney’s Anti-Racism Collective is one of the most active collectives on campus. We are committed to stand up against racism on all fronts, recently focusing on campaigns against the cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers under Australian law. Students have always played a significant role in the movement against racism in politics and the broader community. As one of the most important voices for progress, students can and should take action both on and off campus against racial prejudice and shape an equitable future.
2012 saw a crisis for ethnic minorities as bipartisan support for human rights abuses has actively fostered racism within the community. The ‘stronger futures’ legislation that would extend the Intervention in the NT, and the damage caused by this paternalistic policy, for another 10 years was passed by Parliament. Islamophobia reached hysterical heights as reaction to riots in September took on an undeniably racist view. Ultimately it was the Government’s return to offshore processing with the Pacific Solution 2.0 that saw ARC build a substantial campaign against this expression of racism.
Under the new laws, boat arrivals are detained in cramped, hot, under resourced camps on Manus Island and Nauru where they will be deliberately left for ‘four or five years’, according to Gillard, as a ‘no advantage’ deterrent. The Pacific Solution 2.0 was surrounded by the rhetoric of ‘humane’ deterrence – to stop deaths at sea. Such self-delusion on the part of the government and opposition continues to be exposed as boat arrivals persist, driven by push factors and a fictitious ‘queue’. Genuine concern for saving the lives of these people would see the government decriminalize people smuggling, commit to the safe escort of boats from Indonesia to Australia, abolish mandatory detention in favor of reintroducing community processing and guarantee Australian resettlement. Instead we have seen the Government turn to the cruel policies of the Howard years.
There are a number of things wrong with this policy that subverts Australia’s obligations to welcome asylum seekers under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Beyond the inhumane punishment of those legally fleeing persecution, offshore processing simply will not work. During the six years of the Pacific Solution under Howard, the fall in boat numbers was often seen as proof that the policy worked. Instead it reflects a decrease in asylum seekers globally. Between 2001 and 2006 Canada and the United States had a 47% decrease in asylum seeker applications, Europe had a 54% decrease. Afghani asylum seekers fell by 85% during this time. The increase in boat numbers after 2006 has not been because of a softening of asylum seeker policy in Australia, but because of the violence and persecution in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.
Despite the evident dangers for Tamils fleeing Sri Lanka and Hazaras fleeing Afghanistan, the Government has initiated deportations of a number of Asylum seekers. This return to regimes known for human rights abuses and the persecution of ethnic minorities is made worse by the number of ‘screened out’ deportees for whom the right to even apply for protection was denied. As ASIO negative assessments of UNHCR approved refugees persist and the disturbing reports of horrendous conditions, hunger strikes, self-harm and suicide continue to come to light, it is more important than ever to act to condemn the Government’s policy and the more extreme position of the Abbott Opposition.
ARC has stood up against this racism both on and off campus. Through joining with the Education Action Group, we campaigned to save the refugee language program from threatened cuts. We also joined with Koori Centre students to rally against a planned closure of the centre. We held a number of film screenings and forums with former detainees as well as “The People Smuggler” author Robin de Crespigny and investigative journalist Professor Wendy Bacon. Off campus we have responded to the Government’s undeniable abuse of human rights by organizing student contingents to rallies and visiting Villawood detention centre.
With both sides of politics committed to vilifying Aboriginal people and refugees, students must build of the momentum of 2012 into anti-racist campaigns for 2013. Join us, get involved, fight back!