By Stephen Cauchi
11 April 2022
Thousand of people have called for better treatment of refugees and asylum seekers as they celebrated the release of more than 40 people from indefinite detention across Australia.
Marchers at the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees on April 10 called for permanent visas for refugees and the closure of offshore detention.
Dozens of asylum seekers held under the federal government’s now-defunct Medevac legislation were released in late March and early April.
These releases emptied the Park Hotel Carlton of detainees, imprisoned there for up to nine years.
Beginning at the State Library, the walk ended at the hotel.
Anglican Diocese of Melbourne’s Social Responsibilities Committee member Dr Audrey Statham said there was a celebratory mood at the Park Hotel.
But Dr Statham said marchers knew there were other Medevac refugees still being held across Australia who the government should release.
Dr Statham said that although the Medevac refugees had been released, they were relying on support from charities to survive.
“They don’t have access to welfare because of the type of visa they’re on – they’re on bridging visas,” she said.
“We’re also wanting permanent visas of the refugees on temporary protection visas and the closing of offshore detention.”
Joining the marchers was Anglican Dean of Melbourne the Very Reverend Andreas Loewe, who said despite releases, those marching knew their work wasn’t done yet.
“We need to work for much more generous and transparent conditions for refugees who are currently in the country,” he said.
Dr Loewe said there needed to be a transition from temporary protection visas to an arrangement that gave refugees the ability to pursue a normal life.
Dr Loewe also urged a bipartisan solution to the refugee crisis after the forthcoming election.
The Palm Sunday Walk, which is organised by the Refugee Advocacy Network, was first held in 2014.
About 2000 people attended the walk from groups including Grandmothers for Refugees, the Refugee Action Collective, Labor for Refugees, Amnesty Refugee Network and People for Human Rights and Equality, along with several church groups.
Speakers included Anglican Bishop Paul Barker, former World Vision Australia chief executive the Reverend Tim Costello, senior Australian of the Year nominee Sister Bridget Arthur, refugee advocate Arnold Zable, and Iranian refugee Somayeh.