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Systemic cruelty used against refugees, advocate claims

Victorians urged to turn out for Palm Sunday rally and show support for refugees

March 13 2018Prominent refugee advocate Sr Brigid Arthur has accused the federal government of putting the squeeze on community efforts to ease the misery of refugees languishing in Australian detention centres.

She cited cruel new limits on what gifts visitors can take in to Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre for refugees as “small comforts being denied”.

“What can possibly be dangerous about fresh fruit, or books, or birthday cakes for children? Most Australians would be shocked to learn that traumatised people are denied even these small comforts,” Sr Brigid said.

“These harsh new restrictions, the tight controls that keep refugees who are living in community detention on the edge of destitution, and the treatment of people on Manus and Nauru, are all clear examples of how our government is using systemic cruelty to pursue its immigration policy objectives,” she said.

Sr Brigid called on Victorians to join the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice to speak up for an end to cruelty against refugees.

“The Walk for Justice is an important opportunity to hear from refugees and from others who keep in contact with that in detention, and to stand in solidarity with them. Although the government tries to keep refugees out of sight, we will keep speaking out about the injustices and cruelty they are subject to,” she said.

Sr Brigid said it was “beyond harsh” to indefinitely detain people who have been forced to flee their homelands in traumatic circumstances. Indefinite detention is a violation of their human rights, and these unnecessary deprivations only add to their suffering, she said.

She said people seeking asylum and refugees in community detention are tortured with anxiety and live in constant fear of being re-detained in onshore prison conditions, sent back to Nauru or deported to the dangerous places they fled from.

The Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees starts at 2pm on Sunday 25 March at the State Library of Victoria. Speakers will include Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Adam, who will be speaking live from Manus Island where he has been imprisoned for more than four years; Hazara refugee Taqi Azra; and the Revd Tim Costello, who has visited Manus Island and has first-hand experience of the conditions there.

More than 130 community and religious organisations support the Walk for Justice for Refugees and are urging Victorians to turn out and show they care.