The High Court ruling against 267 refugees – allowing them to be deported to Australia’s detention centre on Nauru – has sparked protests around the country.
In Melbourne, a rally organised by the Refugee Action Collective on 4 February attracted 5,000 and occupied city intersections on a march to the Department of Immigration. That rally, called within hours of the decision, had a militant tone. Dozens of churches and Victorian Trades Hall Council declared their buildings would be refuges for those at risk of deportation.
In the days afterwards, angry sentiment about the prospect of refugees – including around 70 children – being deported by the federal government, resulted in most state premiers and the ACT’s chief minister offering to have them reside within their territory.
A Melbourne vigil called by GetUp! mobilised 6,000 on 8 February. Victorian Trades Hall secretary, Luke Hilakari, told the crowd that the unions built the Labor party but went on to urge opposition to Bill Shorten’s support for the policy of mandatory indefinite offshore detention. “[You] expect this from the Liberals not Labor”, he said.
Mohammad Ali Baqiri, a refugee from Afghanistan, who spent three years on Nauru as a child, told the crowd his story. He said he will keep telling it, and will tell anyone who will listen until the torture that he endured and others continue to endure in Australia’s detention camps ends.
Malcolm Turnbull and immigration minister Peter Dutton have not flinched at the growing pressure to let the refugees stay. Turnbull has said that the government’s resolve should not be doubted.