July 19 marked the fifth anniversary of the announcement by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that “as of today, asylum seekers who come here by boat without a visa will never be settled in Australia”.
People from Berry to Batemans Bay gathered outside Ann Sudmalis’ office in Nowra on Thursday, to call on all political parties to end the detention of men women and children in offshore camps, and ensure their resettlement in places of safety.
Rallies were held across Australia, as part of the Australian Refugee Action Network’s national day of action, Evacuate Now- Bring Refugees to Safety and Rural Australians for Refugee’s #5YearsTooMany.
Greens candidate Carmel McCallum said 939 people, including 137 children remained in limbo on Nauru, while another 698 men remained in Papua New Guinea.
“Our refugee policies are cruel and inhumane and we are leaving people on islands where they are not safe,” she said.
“We should be looking after these people, they’ve fled from extreme situations and would only have done that if they had no other choice.”
Ms McCallum said July 19, 2018 was about honouring the 12 men who have passed away in detention centres on Manus and Nauru.
“We need to make sure those people are not treated this way and we give them every chance to recover after the traumatic five years they’ve had,” she said.
The group was gathered outside Ms Sudmalis’ office to bring awareness to the “immediate” need for change, Ms McCallum said.
“For five years this has been happening and we need to change our laws,” she said.
“This situation is getting bigger and bigger and we need the government, including the opposition to change their policies and see that people are humans just like us.”
Representatives from Stop the Shame, Unions Shoalhaven, Get Up, Eurobodalla Refugee Action Group and Bay and Basin Amnesty International were present, as well as Shoalhaven City Council mayor Amanda Findley.