Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Solidarity with refugees imprisoned in Darwin

27 February 2021

Saturday 27 February 2021 marks one full year that 15 men, women and children have been imprisoned in the Mercure Hotel at Darwin Airport, after seven years exiled on Nauru.

Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) stands in solidarity with the families in Darwin and supports their fight for freedom. We condemn their cruel and unnecessary detention and demand that the Australian government immediately release these families and all refugees in detention and provide effective support and permanent protection as people rebuild their lives.

The four families were transferred to Australia for medical treatment, but have not received proper care. In an open letter, health professionals have called for the Department of Home Affairs and the Federal Government to release the families, stating that: “The health (inclusive of the psychosocial wellbeing) of these 15 individuals is not an exchangeable commodity but is amongst the inalienable human rights of all people.

“Indefinite detention in conditions below that of the minimum expected standard of living, without access to appropriate healthcare, is destructive to the psychological and physical health of human beings.”

One of the 15 refugees detained in Darwin is Hajar Maghames, who fled Iran with her mother, father and brother. Speaking to Refugee Voices, Maghames said: “We ask ourselves, why? Why do we have to suffer in this terrible situation for no crime, no reason? Who will answer? How can we return to good health with the physical and mental issues we now have? What is most important to me now is freedom.”

The Mercure Hotel at Darwin Airport is owned by Accor Group, which also operates the Mantra Bell City Hotel in Melbourne, where more than 60 men were detained for more than a year.

In 2020, RAC (Vic) convened an open letter signed by more than 250 people – including parliamentary and trade union leaders, human rights defenders, international lawyers, community advocates and people seeking asylum – calling on international Accor CEO Sébastien Bazin to put a stop to “the participation of the Mantra and Mercure hotels in the indefinite detention of refugees and asylum-seekers”.

Although the Mantra detention contract has ended, the ongoing use of the Darwin Mercure as a prison shows that nothing has changed in the Accor Group’s willingness to participate in and profit from the imprisonment of innocent people.

The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) has called for a boycott of the hotel chain, with NTCOSS CEO Deborah Di Natale saying: “Until the Mercure takes a stand against the cruel detention happening alongside its premises, we must take a stand against the Mercure.”

Refugees and supporters are holding daily vigils at the Mercure at 5pm, with larger protests on Saturdays. RAC (Vic) calls for others to join these protests or support them remotely by contacting the Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) via Facebook @DassanNT, on Twitter @DASSAN12, or on Instagram @freetheDarwin15.

RAC (Vic) is participating in the National Day of Protest on Friday 5 March, calling for an end to the indefinite and arbitrary detention of all refugees. There will be actions around the country, with the protest in Melbourne from 6pm at the State Library.

Update on Chris Breen’s court case

RAC activist Chris Breen appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on 10 February, charged with incitement.

Police and Chris had given evidence at the first day of the hearing on 27 January. This time it was the turn of Mostafa Azimitabar (Moz) to give evidence.

The case was adjourned until 10am on Wednesday 17 March when lawyers for the prosecution and defence will make legal arguments.

Join the solidarity speak-out on 17 March.

Find out more about the case.

Support grows for refugee COVID convoy protesters

The Refugee Action Collective has issued a sign-on statement, calling for solidarity with those harassed in connection with a solidarity car convoy to the Mantra hotel in Preston.

RAC activist Chris Breen was arrested for “incitement” and 30 refugee activists are receiving $1652 fines.

Organisations and individuals have been quick to add their names to the statement. Some of those are listed below, with many more having signed.

To add your support, email your name and organisation and position (if applicable) to refugeeactioncollective@gmail.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATIONS TO DATE

Maritime Union of Australia
United Workers Union
Australian Education Union Victoria Branch (by a separate resolution)
Health and Community Services Union (HACSU)
CFMEU Construction & General Division VIC/TAS Branch
NTEU Victorian Division
ETU Queensland and NT Branch
Ballarat Regional Trades and Labour Council
Hume Central Secondary College AEU Sub Branch
RMIT University NTEU branch committee
Federation University NTEU branch committee
Australian Unemployed Workers Union
The Victorian Greens
Tamil Refugee Council
Labor for Refugees NSW
Unionists for Refugees (Vic)
Aireys Inlet Rural Australians for Refugees
Fremantle Refugee Rights Action Network
Hunter Asylum Seeker Advocacy
Black Sash Australia
Kommonground Inc
Pax Christi Victoria
Pax Christi NSW
Pax Christi Australia
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Justice and Peace Centre
Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
Refugee Action Coalition NSW
Refugee Action Collective Queensland
3CR Community Radio
University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council
Apollo Bay Rural Australians for Refugees
Jews for Refugees
Campaign Against Racism and Fascism
Earthworker Cooperative
Mums for Refugees
Grandmothers for Refugees NSW
Young Labor Left NSW
The Greens NSW
Solidarity
Socialist Alliance
Benalla Rural Australians for Refugees
Justice for Refugees
Therapy4Refugees
Stand Together Against Racism
Socialist Alternative
Victorian Socialists
Combined Refugee Action Group, Geelong
Refugee Rights Action Network WA
Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support
Australian Student Christian Movement
We Are Union: Benalla
Northside Youth with Refugees
Students for Refugees Society
The Architecture Lobby (Vic)
Communist Party of Australia
Australia-Cuba Friendship Society (WA)
Democracy in Colour
Adelaide Vigil for Manus and Nauru
Australian Association of Social Workers (Vic)
Teachers for Refugees (NSW)
University of Melbourne Greens Club
Freedom Socialist Party
Radical Women
Darebin Greens
Indigenous Social Justice Association
Freedom Socialist Party (US)
Love Makes A Way, Melbourne
CLACCA Universal Life Church
Cooper Grandmothers for Refugees


AMONG THE MANY SUPPORTING INDIVIDUALS

Behrouz Boochani, former Manus detainee, author, film-maker
Mostafa Azimitabar (Moz from Manus)
Abdul Aziz Adam, former Manus detainee
Senator Nick McKim, Tasmania (Greens)
Senator Janet Rice, Victoria (Greens)
Senator Lidia Thorpe, Victoria (Greens)
Senator Mehreen Faruqi, NSW (Greens)
Jenny Leong, NSW Greens MP
David Shoebridge, NSW Greens MP
Dr Tim Read, Victorian Greens MP
Samantha Ratnam, Victorian Greens MP and leader
Ellen Sandell, Victorian Greens MP
Sam Hibbins, Victorian Greens MP
Lee Rhiannon, former NSW Senator (Greens)
Gavin Marshall, former Victorian Senator (ALP)
Paul Petersen, Assistant Branch Secretary MUA, Queensland Branch
Keith McKenzie, President ETU, Qld and NT Branch
Michael Thomson, State Secretary, NTEU NSW Division
Robert Richter QC, barrister
Greg Barns, Former National President Australian Lawyers Alliance
Julian Burnside AO QC, barrister
David Risstrom, barrister
Elizabeth Cox, former UN Women Director, Pacific region
Wendy Bacon, journalist and researcher
Arnold Zable, author
Alex Bhathal, President Victorian Branch Australian Association of Social Workers
Professor Emeritus Stuart Rees OAM, University of Sydney
Dr David Brophy, Senior Lecturer in Modern Chinese History, University of Sydney
Dr Katrina Watson OAM
Dr Kerry Goulston AO
Dr Kerry Breen AM
Dr David Cade
Professor Catherine Greenhill
Cr Sue Bolton, Moreland Council
Cr Jessica Dorney, Moreland Council
Cr Mark Riley, Moreland Council
Emeritus Professor Joseph Camilleri OAM, Chair, Academic Board, La Trobe College Australia
Dr John Slavin
Dr Elyse Methven, Law lecturer UTS
Dr Mirna Cicioni
Alison Battinson, Principal lawyer, Human Rights for All
Dr Anthea Vogl, Senior law lecturer UTS
Dr Sara Dehm, Law lecturer UTS
Dr Kevin Sweeney, Convenor, Amnesty Newcastle
Peter Murphy, Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition
Cr Cath Blakey, Wollongong Council
Associate Professor Georgina Murray, Griffith University
Cr Stephen Nugent, Orange City Council
Louise Redmond, National President, Rural Australians for Refugees
Jonathan Strauss, National Secretary, Rural Australians for Refugees
Marie Sellstrom, Immediate Past National President, Rural Australians for Refugees
Professor Emeritus Frank Stilwell, Political Economy, University of Sydney
Cr Philippa Veitch, Deputy Mayor, Randwick Council
Dr Michael Grewcock, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, UNSW
Dr Bridget Honan, Emergency physician
Cr Petros Constantinou, Coordinator, KEERFA (Movement United Against Racism and the Fascist Threat), Athens City Council
Associate Professor Bill Dunn, University of Sydney
Associate Professor Anne McNevin, The New School, New York
Cr Jonathan Sri, Brisbane City Council
Hannah Buchan, President, University of Melbourne Student Union
Cr Gaetano Greco, Deputy Mayor, Darebin Council
Dr June Factor, Convenor, Befriend a Child in Detention