Australians rally against removal of asylum seekers

Protesters urge government to let 267 asylum seekers, who came to Australia for medical treatment, stay in the country.

australia asylym seeker protest rally
Last week's decision means the asylum seekers face deportation with just 72 hours' notice [Jane Lynch/Al Jazeera]

Dozens of rallies have taken place across Australia as protesters called on the government to stop the deportation of scores of asylum seekers after a failed legal challenge in the High Court last week.

Monday’s demonstrations came as five state and territory ministers urged Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to let the 267 refugees stay in the country.

The group of asylum seekers, including 37 babies who were born in Australia, were brought to the country from Manus Island and Nauru for medical treatment.

They now face deportation to offshore centres on the islands with only 72 hours’ notice after the High Court ruled that they could not stay in Australia.

READ MORE: Court rules on Australia’s refugee-detention policy

“The High Court decision was disappointing but the public response has been truly incredible,” said Daniel Webb, director of Legal Advocacy from the Human Rights Law Centre, who had brought the legal challenge to the High Court.

“Doctors, churches and the UN have all urged Turnbull to let the 267 people stay and now state and territory leaders around the country are reminding us what strong moral leadership looks like.”

The list of asylum seekers includes 37 babies [Jo Merrick]
The list of asylum seekers includes 37 babies [Jo Merrick]

Hamid [name changed on request] is among the asylum seekers facing deportation, along with his sister and his 69-year-old mother.

Having been both to Nauru and Manus Island, he travelled with his sister to Australia from Nauru early last year to accompany their mother, who needed urgent medical care.

“I’m a 27-year-old man who has lost his mental and emotional strength,” Hamid told Al Jazeera via email from a detention centre in Darwin, Australia.

“If my mother returns to Nauru, her physical and mental health will worsen. I don’t want to lose my mother. My mother is the oldest person in detention. She is always crying and hitting herself.”

Earlier on Monday, Andrew Barr, the chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory, joined four other state and territory ministers in calling on the prime minister to allow those individuals to stay in the country.

“We’re all reaching out to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now to say ‘we can do better as a country’,” Barr told ABC radio.

“Malcolm Turnbull is not Tony Abbott. In all of my experience, he is a caring man and I hope he can demonstrate that through doing the right thing here.”

‘Dangerous, cruel and causing trauma’

Jane Lynch, a local engineer, took her two young daughters to the protest in Gosford, north of Sydney.

“It [the situation] makes me incredibly angry and sad and I will continue to protest until this government stops the cruelty,” Lynch said.

“Each day these children, women and men spend in these detention centres is dangerous, cruel and causing trauma. When my children are old enough to understand, I don’t know how I will ever explain to them that we let this happen to these children.”

Sally Thompson, from the Perth-based Refugee Rights Action Network, has been in regular contact with many of those facing deportation.

“They [those facing deportation] have been taken for medical examination and these tests are usually ‘fit to fly’ tests,” she said.

“In recent days, refugee advocates have also been barred from visiting those who are in detention. These people, many of whom are still very ill, are terrified that they will soon be sent back to Nauru and Manus Island.”

The group includes people suffering with cancer other terminal illnesses [Jo Merrick/Al Jazeera]
The group includes people suffering with cancer other terminal illnesses [Jo Merrick/Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera