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Issue #1506      22 June 2011

Perth Rally to celebrate World Refugee Day

Last Sunday at 12.30pm around 100 people gathered to celebrate World Refugee Day outside the Wesley Church in the Perth CBD, which was organised by the Refugee Rights Action Network (RRAN). The event was chaired by RRAN spokesman Marcus Roberts who opened proceedings by reading a letter from a refugee being held at the Perth Detention Centre. The person wrote of a dream of freedom beyond the walls which contain them – and of being able to walk in the streets without having a camera and other unwanted attention directed towards them.

There were four speakers including former West Australian Premier Dr Carmen Lawrence, now a University of WA academic who spoke about the prevalence of a Fortress Australia mentality and questioned the reasons for this.

Dr Lawrence argued that it could be that we are isolated being an island nation. Our relative prosperity and individualism has produced a selfishness in our society and a reluctance to share. A selfishness that in previous times would have been seen as a vice was now seen as a virtue.

Dr Lawrence continued, “Out of decency we have an obligation to help those who are seeking a better life.” A life that many of us may take for granted, and are led to believe through the mainstream capitalist media that “queue jumpers” and “illegal’s” are not entitled to come here and should be locked up until their case has been proven.

Dr Lawrence concluded, “There is a spiral of silence out there that has to be turned around.”

One of those refugees who spent time in a detention centre and can now walk around free is a young Iraqi woman Reem who spoke next.

Reem had spent a year in the Woomera Detention Centre when she arrived as a child in 1999. She recalled the oppressive heat and isolation of the detention centre and the impersonal and degrading practice of being given a number to which she had to answer for the year that she had to spend there while her case was decided.

A woman from CARAD (Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees) was the final speaker. She called on the government to close all detention centres which she saw as “Factories of Illness”. Instead we should be doing prompt and efficient health and security checks on asylum seekers and then releasing them into the community.

The growing crowd then gathered for a vocal and colourful march around the city including an activist with an Australian flag tied around his head who was symbolically placed inside a cage which was wheeled around the route of the march.  

Next article – Sydney rally for World Refugee Day

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