Australians protest for better treatment of asylum seekers

Protestors demand better treatment for asylum seekers in demonstration held at Australian PM’s office

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Protestors entering the building where Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office is in the Sydney suburb of Edgecliff, Australia, October 14, 2015

A group of protestors staged a demonstration regarding Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers at newly appointed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Sydney office on Wednesday.

The group of 20 Christian activists held a banner that said  "Children don't belong in detention," criticising the country’s controversial offshore detention policy, that dictates sending asylum seekers to centres in the South Pacific.

"I'm hopeful that we will look back at this particular moment, the change in prime minister, the fresh approach, and see that it was the time when that national shame was put to and end," said protest spokesman Justin Whelan.

Turnbull, who was sworn in as the new prime minister of Australia last month after replacing Tony Abbott, was not in the office at the time of the protest.

He is expected to take action against the harsh detention conditions, after saying he was concerned about conditions in the camps last month.

But, he had also argued that sending the boats back from Australia and keeping people on the islands are saving refugee’s lives, as fewer drowning incidents occur at sea.

The country’s highest court is now considering if the policy of sending asylum seekers for long-term detention is in line with the constitution.

Around 1,589 asylum-seekers - 1,382 men, 114 women and 93 children – are in detention at Manus Island and Nauru, according to recent immigration figures.

The UN and human rights groups reports reveal children in the camps are facing systemic abuse and sexual assault.

Recently, a Somali woman who claims she became pregnant after being raped in Nauru Island, was initially denied for medical treatment in Australia, but was later given a visa to move.

On Sunday, thousands of people in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities rallied against refugee centres as hundreds of staff from Melbourne’s Royal Children’s (RCH) hospital held their own rally.

RCH staff believe it is unethical to send children treated at the hospital back to unsafe conditions.

A controversial law that passed this year allows health and care professionals serving in the detention network to be jailed up to two years if they reveal information on conditions within the refugee centres.

In addition, journalists are having a hard time reaching Nauru, as the country demands a non-refundable, $8,000 AUD ($5,775.20) visa application fee that many media outlets are not able to pay.

TRTWorld and agencies