Canberra, 17 March 2016
Palm Sunday Rally, 20 March, 1pm Garema Place, Canberra City
Canberrans are set to turn out in their thousands in Garema Place on Palm Sunday this week. They will swell the ranks of rallies across the country demanding immediate government action to protect the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers and close offshore detention centres.
Sunday’s rallies are expected to reflect a growing support for refugees. This increase in concern has been tellingly demonstrated recently by churches of many denominations Australia-wide declaring sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers and by strong stands taken by doctors and health workers to protect refugees.
Canberra RAC spokesperson Associate Professor Dr John Minns said today, “In another example of the groundswell of steps to protect refugees, a number of university staff and students are petitioning the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Brian Schmidt, to declare the ANU a sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers.
“The government has done everything it can to keep those who have fled to us for protection faceless and to shroud its actions in secrecy. But recent events have enabled us to put a human face to some of these people and we are now seeing a surge in grassroots support for those who rate among the world’s most vulnerable people.
“The community is taking to the streets to demand that both the government and opposition end their abhorrent policies of deterrence that incarcerate innocent people for years. We are telling the politicians that refugee lives matter!”
Representatives from churches, the medical profession, unions, university and school groups, regional organisations and individuals will participate in the Garema Place event. And as Australia’s Palm Sunday rallies get off the ground, communities in Europe will be engaged in an international day of action and solidarity as part of the International Day of Action against racism on 19 March.
“While there are still moves to vilify refugees and spread fear, the grassroots demonstrations across the globe on March 19 and 20 will unite us in calling for responsible, humane solutions for those fleeing war and persecution rather than erecting barriers to fence them out,” Dr Minns said.
David Manne, Executive Director of the Refugee Immigration and Legal Centre, a community legal centre specialising in all aspects of refugee and immigration law, policy and practice, will be keynote speaker at the Canberra Rally at 1pm in Garema Place. Other speakers include Hedayat Osyan an Hazara Refugee from Afghanistan, Canon Roberta Hamilton, rector of the Anglican parish of South Tuggeranong, and Sophie Singh from the Canberra Refugee Action Committee.
RAC spokesman Dr John Minns is available for comment on 0407 483 952.