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Vol. 73/No. 49      December 21, 2009

‘Free the refugees!’
demand Australia marchers
SYDNEY, Australia—Some 150 people marched and rallied here November 29 demanding that the government grant refugee status to Tamils who have fled the war and subsequent concentration camps in Sri Lanka.

The Australian government is expanding a detention center on Christmas Island that will hold 2,000 people. Christmas Island is an Australian territory near the coast of Indonesia.

“Free, free the refugees! Close Christmas Island!” protesters chanted as they rallied at Town Hall Square and marched through the city. Lead banners of the Refugee Action Coalition, which organized the march, also opposed the government’s “Indonesia solution” and called for an end to mandatory detention of “unauthorized” asylum-seekers arriving by sea.

The Australian government has brokered the help of the Indonesian government to intercept refugees attempting to get to Australia. A detention center is being built on the Indonesian island of Bintan with funding from Australia.

The action opposed the latest moves by the Labor government here to have Indonesian authorities stop boats of asylum-seekers heading to this country and intern the passengers. Protesters also condemned the continued holding of refugees on Christmas Island, saying that all asylum-seekers were welcome.

Some 78 Tamils seeking admission to Australia, who had refused for a month to disembark in Indonesia, were convinced in mid-November to do so with the promise of resettlement in “third countries” within three months if they are deemed to be refugees. They are being held in an Australian-funded detention center in Indonesia.

However, most of the 250 Tamils on board a vessel moored at Merak, Indonesia, still refuse to land there. A live phone hook-up with a spokesperson from the group of boat-bound refugees was broadcast at the Sydney rally.  
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