Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

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

RAC statement on COVID-19 and rallying for refugees

8 January 2021

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:

The government hides the reality from people. I want people to see clearly what the Australian government is doing. I want them to see that the government is torturing us.

I think we will be free when thousands of people come into the streets. I don’t believe we’ll be freed by the people who have kept us in cages for years. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I believe I will get my freedom from the people.

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 threats lead to COVID-safe protest being cancelled

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.

Read our media release.

Solidarity with refugees and migrants devastated by fire at Moria refugee camp in Greece

14 September 2020

Refugee Action Collective in Victoria (RAC Vic) expresses its solidarity with refugees and migrants who have been devastated and displaced after fires ripped through Europe’s largest refugee camp at Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos last week.

Refugees at the camp were left to run in panic after a fire broke out. It is unknown how the fire started. The camp has since been burned down leaving 13,000 men, women and children without shelter, with many left to sleep on the road.

On Friday 11 September, news reports stated that migrants and refugees protested in front of police barriers holding signs calling for “freedom” and “no camp”, with Greek police responding by firing tear gas at protestors.

Before the fires began, 13,000 refugees at the camp had already faced months of extreme overcrowding, unhealthy conditions such as lack access to medical care, water, sanitation and pandemic information. The camp has been impacted by COVID-19, with several refugees testing positive for the virus.

Refugee Action Coalition Sydney showed their support at the Greek Consulate with members of the Greek community in Sydney on Saturday 12 September. From the RAC Sydney Facebook page, they issued their support saying: “ Solidarity with the Moria refugees. Today progressive members of the Greek community joined with members of RAC outside the Greek Consulate in Sydney. There will be pro-refugee protests across Europe, including in Athens, later today.”

We echo these statements and those of protestors in Greece and in other parts of Europe who are mobilising in solidarity with refugees and migrants. 3000 protesters in Germany are calling on their own government and countries across the EU to accept all refugees from the Moria refugee camp. Refugee rights supporters are demanding refugees and migrants be immediately transported to the Greek mainland, to be able to safely access asylum and housing.

We stand in support and call for refugees all around the world, including in Australia and at the Moria camp, to be welcomed to safety and permanent protection in the community.