“Deprivation of a person’s liberty is a form of torture.”-Frederika Steen, refugee rights advocate
The 18th October rally in King George Square, Brisbane, constitutes a part of the national rallies happening across Australia this week, which saw about a 150 protester turnout. The rally kick-started with a beautiful rendition of “Refugee” by the One Voice Brisbane Choir. Emceed by Frederika Steen, the audience were treated to a number of speakers, namely health professionals.
Recently, the Border Force Act granted health professionals the ability to speak out against the physical and psychological harm they witnessed among the asylum seekers in detention centres. Today’s rally saw Dr Paddy McLisky from the Doctors for Refugees group and Nurse Amelia Tau speak of the atrocities they witnessed.
While doctors are no longer required under the border force act to be silent, most of the employees in detentions centres are not doctors, and yet they still face two years’ jail for exposing the abuse they witness on Nauru and Manus Island. “Doctors for refugees will be pushing on for the high court challenge as planned,” Dr Paddy McLisky declared, referring to the rights for all, and not just medical staff, to speak out. “This is not their exclusive privilege. Everyone has a right to speak out.”
Similarly, nurse Amelia Tao, who has worked at Manus Island for six weeks and Nauru for six months, was in charge of a case of a Sudanese man who had suffered from trauma and physical harm. He was dependent on her signature to declare he was fit and that would mean him being deported back to his own country facing the horrors he strove to escape. Having seen first hand what the conditions of the detention camps were like, Amelia Tao said, “I don’t want to draw comparisons to concentration camps but I knew this was wrong.”
Mojgan Shamsalipoor, who was, two years ago, sent to a local detention centre while still in high school, was recently released on a temporary visa and here to speak to the Australian public for the first time. With her husband by her side and her high school principal, Jessica Walker, of Yeronga High, Mojgan addressed the crowd, fighting back tears. “It feels like being born again,” going on to state that while in detention, the only hope came from those who fought for her through the two years of her detention. Her husband reiterated the message declaring how he will “fight for every single person in my home (Australia).” Principal Jessica Walker is now fighting for an Afghan man whose claims for asylum was rejected because the government simply did not want to believe him. As a result, he faces being pursued by the Taliban back home.
Father Pan Jordan of the Tamil Refugee Action group has also informed us that every Tamil refugee’s claims have been rejected. A new fast track system of processing exists which is deeply flawed. A rally will be held by the Tamil Refugee Action group on the 12th of November at Reddacliff Place in the city at 11a.m. in protest of the system.
What can we do as ordinary citizens to help and be the voice for the voiceless? Amelia Tao has the answer. “Make your struggle irresistible. What can be more irresistible than the truth?”