RAC takes the pandemic seriously: we are well aware of the threat COVID-19 has posed, in particular to refugees in detention. We will do everything we can to minimise risk at the rally to free the Medevac refugees at 2pm this Saturday 9 January at the State Library.
We will encourage social distancing and the spreading out of attendees. We require masks to be worn, and will provide them free on the day. We will provide hand sanitiser and QR registration codes.
We note that around 13,000 people watched Melbourne Victory vs Brisbane Roar on 2 January and that there are no absolute limits on crowds indoors in the casino, strip clubs or shopping centres, only density requirements. There is no reason that people rallying for refugee rights should be more restricted.
Victoria has now had two days in a row of zero COVID-19 cases (from almost 60,000 tests), reducing the level of risk. The level of risk posed by outdoor events such as rallies is less than indoors – Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has acknowledged the risk is 20 times less outdoors. We will also be wearing masks.
The risk from continuing indefinite detention to refugees is not small. One in two people in the MITA detention centre in Broadmeadows have self-harmed or attempted suicide. The figure is one in five in the detention hotels. A few days after refugees were forcibly moved to the Park Hotel one man tried to jump off the roof. More than half of refugees held offshore have diagnosable mental illnesses caused by detention. Thirteen people have died offshore. Every day refugees mental and physical health deteriorates in detention.
Refugees themselves are more at risk of COVID-19 than the general population. They have been left unable to properly protect themselves from COVID-19 in detention and the fear of the pandemic has further eroded their mental health. Outside detention, refugees are denied JobKeeper or JobSeeker, making them especially vulnerable. Despite all these difficulties refugees continue to demand their freedom and security, and ask for our solidarity.
The pandemic has not stopped the Coalition’s cruelty to refugees. Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton get lies about refugees into the media on a regular basis. Protest is the voice of refugees in detention. Protest is the voice of the refugee solidarity movement outside of detention, it is often how we get coverage of refugee issues in the media. The refugee movement is the opposition to the Coalition on refugees and we will not let our voice fall silent.
The people imprisoned in the Park Hotel are all recognised refugees. They were brought here for treatment but have received punishment instead.
As Moz, a refugee detained for seven and a half years, first on Manus and now in the Park Hotel has said:
We encourage all refugee supporters to rally at the State Library at 2pm on Saturday 9 January and march with us to the Park Hotel, to demand freedom and permanent resettlement in Australia for the refugees held there.
Police say they will fine refugee supporters $5000 each if they stand in pairs, 1.5 metres apart and wearing masks, outside the Mantra Bell City hotel.
RAC had planned to organise a series of COVID-safe gatherings, an hour apart, on Saturday 3 October to protest a Federal Government Bill that would deprive refugees and asylum-seekers in detention of their mobile phones.
RAC had also planned a media conference, which police say would also attract fines.
The in-person event has now been cancelled. RAC is considering ways in which the media conference might proceed.