Australian High Commission under detention, Wellingtonians protest treatment of refugees

On 23 June, Peace Action Wellington (PAW) and around 50 Wellingtonians blockaded the Australian High Commission, creating a symbolic detention centre to protest the Australian Government’s policy of mandatory offshore detention for refugees and asylum seekers.

PAW also delivered a large inflatable ‘message in a bottle’, bearing the slogan “Don’t be silent please – freedom is our right”, a message directly from protesters on Nauru and Manus Island. Peaceful protests by detaineed refugees and asylum seekers have almost reached their 100th day on Nauru and 40th on Manus Island.

Protestors at the Australian High Commission

Protestors at the Australian High Commission

23rd June marks a day of civil disobedience by Australian activists protesting treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. PAW stand in solidarity both with asylum seekers being held in detention and those Australians who actively oppose their government’s policy.

PAW Spokesperson Emma Cullen said “We chose to create a detention centre at the Australian High Commission because we feel that the Australian authorities lack empathy and need to understand that no one is illegal. They represent the Australian government, whose current treatment of refugees is reprehensible. While it’s only the embassy staff’s lunch hour, some asylum seekers and refugees have been detained on Manus Island and Nauru for years. We stand in solidarity with these people and demand their release.”

Access Denied at the Australian High Commission

Access Denied at the Australian High Commission

Australian government use of offshore detention has previously been abolished by the Australian government and could be again. Under international law (UDHR 14 & the Refugee Convention), everyone has the right to seek asylum and be protected – Australia is not living up to these standards. PAW call for an immediate end to Australia’s ‘No Way Will You Make Australia Home’ policy which leaves refugees in a state of limbo on Manus or Nauru under sometimes horrific conditions.

We call for an immediate end to all offshore detention and progression towards also closing all onshore detention centres in accordance with the Australia Human Rights Commission’s Alternatives to Detention. Peace Action Wellington also call on the New Zealand government to speak out against Australia’s racist policy, although with their recent shameful decision not to double our own Refugee Quota, this currently seems unlikely.

Protestor holds up a picture of Rakib, an asylum seeker who committed suicide on Nauru after asking for mental health help

Protestor holds up a picture of Rakib, an asylum seeker who committed suicide on Nauru after asking for mental health help

Emma says “We call on the Australian government to take leadership from their Indigenous leaders, who have on several occasions granted Original Nation passports to refugees and asylum seekers who have been detained or refused asylum by the Australian government. We also acknowledge the tanagta whenua of Aotearoa and call for tino rangatiratanga here. An indigenous non-capitalist approach to immigration, borders and refugees could be much more humane and than our current European settler inspired one.”

“Along with the USA and Europe, Aotearoa and Australia are also responsible for increasing numbers of refugees. The recently released NZ Defence White Paper adds a shocking $20 billion to military spending and John Key’s latest commitment to NZ forces remaining in Iraq will only lead to further people being displaced from their homes. The absolute least we can do is not then lock these people up in offshore gulags or, in the New Zealand government’s case, just ignore them. The Australian High Commission tried to ignore us today, refusing to accept

Message in a bottle reads 'Don't be silent please: freedom is our right'

Message in a bottle reads ‘Don’t be silent please: freedom is our right’

our letter of protest to their staff, but it’s clear with widespread protest across Australia today that public opinion is turning against them.”

Emma continues – “Australia, your racist borders kill. Today we demand justice for Reza Barati, Rakib, Omid Masoulami, Hamid Kehazaei, Fezal Chegani, all of whom have died because of Australia’s border policy and also Hodan Yasin whose status is currently unknown. No one is illegal – end detention now.”

 

Notes for editors:

– As of March 2016, 905 asylum seekers are being held on Manus Island and 468 asylum seekers, including 55 women and 50 children being held on Nauru. http://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/statistics/immigration-detention-statistics-31-mar-2016.pdf

– Asylum seekers are currently being held for record amounts of times in offshore detention – on average almost 450 days. Nearly a quarter have been held for over 750 days. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-01-13/immigration-detention-times-blow-out-to-almost-450-days/7085264

– Manus island detention centre operated between 2001-2004. Nauru was previously open between 2001-2008. Both have since been reopened and operating since 2012. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Australian_immigration_detention_facilities

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Welcoming refugees

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Seeking asylum is not a crime. Refugees welcome.

Peace Action Wellington placed lifejackets on statues around Wellington on Sunday 22 May to remember those who have lost their lives while seeking asylum and those who still struggle for it today.

Lifejackets have become a symbol of refugees and the ongoing crisis of over 60 million people forcibly displaced from their home countries by war and ongoing conflicts. People seeking asylum in Europe boarding unsafe boats in lifejackets, risking life and limb, have now had the borders shut around them.

Our closest neighbour Australia has committed to a brutal policy of allowing no refugees arriving by boat to enter Australia. Instead they have created inhumane and illegal offshore detention centres while simultaneously turning back boats in an effort to deter people seeking asylum there.

Here in New Zealand our government has said and done nothing to condemn the actions of those persecuting and turning away refugees at their most vulnerable. The government has not increased the annual refugee quota of 750 since 1987 and illegally detains some asylum seekers in New Zealand prisons in contradiction of international humanitarian law. This is the same government that passed the Mass Arrivals Bill and floated the possibility of having people seeking asylum taken to Australian detention centres to deter any future arrivals.

The New Zealand government’s silence and inaction makes it complicit in the death and suffering of those who have the right to seek asylum.

We ask the New Zealand government to take an equal part in the international crisis and increase the refugee quota and funding accordingly. We demand the release of asylum seekers currently being held within New Zealand prisons, who should be offered the same services available to quota refugees. Repeal the Mass Arrivals Bill, terminate any subsequent deal with Australia and call for the closing of their detention centres and an end to mandatory detention. Peace Action Wellington also calls for the New Zealand government to cease any involvement in foreign conflicts that ultimately lead to the creation of refugees.

To get involved with supporting refugees in Aotearoa try Red Cross and Double the Quota or come along to a discussion on border militarisation on Thursday May 26.

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Remembering the conscientious objectors

Sculpture commemorating conscientious objectors

Sculpture commemorating conscientious objectors

Lest we forget to challenge the glorification of war this ‪#‎AnzacDay2016‬

We remember the conscientious objectors who were persecuted and abused by the army and the government for their belief that war is wrong.

Sculptures of Archie Baxter and other conscientious objectors were found placed around Wellington this Anzac Day in the ‘field punishment number one’ position, which was used to torture them and attempt to pressure them into taking part in warfare during World War One.

On the 1st of October 1917 three New Zealand conscientious objectors to fighting in world war one received Field Punishment No. 1. They were suspended from poles at a punishment camp. Their hands were bound tightly behind their backs for up to four hours per day in all weathers. The poles were tipped forward, and the ropes cut into the flesh, cutting off blood flow.

The New Zealand author and conscientious objector, Archibald Baxter, described this experience in his book “We Shall Not Cease.” Baxter’s punishment lasted twenty eight days. ‘My hands were taken from round the pole, tied together and pulled well up it, straining and cramping the muscles and forcing them into an unnatural position…. he knew how to pull and strain at the ropes till they cut into the flesh and completely stopped the circulation.’ ‘I was strained so tightly against the post that I was unable to move body or limbs a fraction of an inch.’

In addition to this conscientious objectors were subject to imprisonment, starvation, beatings and sometimes forced into German artillery and gun fire.

Conscientious objectors withstood horrific conditions and physical torment to defend peace and protest the unnecessary deaths of millions. With the ongoing militarisation of ANZAC day, its romanticisation of war, and its promotion of the armed forces, it is no surprise that the stories of conscientious objectors are left out of the ANZAC myth.

The first World War was a completely unnecessary conflict. It happened to protect and expand the empires involved, not to defend principles such as freedom or democracy. The millions who died endured tortuous conditions in conflict and were victims of an international power struggle. Many who resisted war, for religious or moral reasons, were subjected to torture and imprisonment.

It’s time to end the romanticisation of war and the militarisation of ANZAC day.

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No Heart for Anzac Frigates

A protester was violently arrested at a pre-Anzac Day demonstration at the Ministry of Defence staged by Peace Action Wellington on Monday 18 April to mark the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

The peaceful protest highlighted the government’s recent invitation of US warships to Aotearoa, and spoke out against out against military spending.

As Anzac Day approaches, New Zealand’s defence industry continues to exploit the Anzac myth for the perpetuation of its war agenda. New Zealand has just recommitted its military presence in Iraq, and its ‘ANZAC class’ frigates are being upgraded in a $446 million contract won by the Canadian arm of global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin. The upgrade includes missile defence, communications and radar detection, torpedo decoys and an overall combat management system.

Lockheed Martin is chief sponsor of the NZ Defence Industry Association’s weapons conference, to be held in Auckland in November. The annual conference, which Peace Action protested in Wellington last year, is an opportunity for those who profit from war, to display their wares and woo government contracts.

“As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles, Lockheed Martin’s role in the weapons conference and the Navy upgrade is contrary to the spirit of New Zealand’s nuclear free status, and an offense to the memory of those who died senselessly from war 100 years ago”, says Peace Action Wellington spokesperson Tim Bollinger.

The Auckland event will coincide with the New Zealand Navy 75th anniversary celebrations, which will see a large flotilla of foreign naval ships paraded in Auckland harbour. The government’s invitation to the world’s navies to attend the event is extended to vessels from both France and the United States, countries that have historically challenged New Zealand’s strong anti-nuclear position.

If the U.S. accepts the invitation, it will be the first visit to New Zealand from a US naval vessel, since our Nuclear Free legislation required them to drop their “neither confirm nor deny” policy on the presence of nuclear armaments on their ships in the late 1980s. They have never conceded.

Peace Action Wellington protested the Navy upgrade and the government’s position on US ships by delivering a cardboard US warship, named the USS Apocalypse to highlight its possible nuclear capability to the Ministry of Defence. Protesters asked to deliver the ship and their message of peace to Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee, Chief of Defence Force Tim Keating and Chief of Navy John Martin but police swiftly arrived. Whilst protesters were leaving, one demonstrator who has a pre-existing injury was violently arrested, worsening her condition.

“The spirit of the Anzacs should not be used for the glorification of the defence industry’s present day war agenda,” Tim Bollinger said. “The $446 million spent on the frigate upgrade could have paid for 7,824 heart operations. Peaceful protests highlighting these issues should not be met with arrest.

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The Nuclear Free Wellington Sign Returns

Peace Action Wellington members were delighted to discover that the old Nuclear Free Wellington sign has been returned to its rightful place, welcoming travellers from Wellington Airport.
Sign reading"Welcome to Wellington: A nuclear-free city" and a peace symbol with koru stylingAt a time when concern about nuclear weapons is growing and the Government is building closer military ties with the United States of America we should remember the importance of our Nuclear Free status, and the significance of Wellington as a Nuclear Free Peace City.

 

Wellington was declared a nuclear free zone on April 14 1982 and 40 local authorities in total had declared themselves nuclear-free by the end of 1984.

It is an affront to this country’s nuclear-free status that a naval exercise with United States ships will be taking place in the waters of the Aotearoa New Zealand this November.The naval exercise will be run in connection with the Defence Industry Association’s annual Weapons Conference. The conference is part trade expo and part bidding for Government contracts, has been marked by strong protest in Wellington. The United States of America refuses to confirm or deny the presence of nuclear power or weapons on these ships. They should not be permitted here and we should not build military ties with a country responsible for atrocities such as those at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The Weapons Conference and is taking place in Auckland in 2016.

nuclear_free_2Peace Action Wellington appreciates all the good work Auckland groups are doing organising resistance to this upcoming conference. We cannot allow companies to use war as a money making opportunity.

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Solidarity action: Women 4 Syria

Yesterday we met in Wellington to plant edible plants in public spaces to honour the lives of millions of Syrian women enduring siege, war, exile, disposession and imprisonment, as well as those who have passed away.

The reason we used edible plants is to remind people in New Zealand of the one million people across 46 communities in Syria who are besieged and struggling to eat.

We reject the weaponisation of food in conflict and we assert that land and food sovereignty are key to the dignity and self-determination of all people.

We encourage you to replicate this action, which can be taken in any location.

We shared short biographies of women to honour as part of the action – for every one that we know of there are thousands we don’t. We also commemorate the unknown, un-named women who sacrifice, resist, teach, inspire, survive and persist in the struggle for self and collective self-determination, inside Syria or wherever they are.

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Court solidarity for #StopWeaponsConf arrestees

26 people were arrested for protesting the annual Weapons Conference in November 2015. The #StopWeaponsConf days of protest blockaded the entrance of the Wellington council run TSB Arena where arms dealers and NZ Defence Forces met to discuss weapons and war. The conference offered delegates excellent opportunities to ‘speed date’ with their fave arms manufacturer and check out the displays of machine guns, ammo and fun shooting games. It was sponsored by the world’s largest arms company and nuclear warhead manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.

Protesters blocked entrances, interrupted proceedings with noise outside and had a party to disrupt the arms dealers cocktail party and dinner.

The cops as usual stood on the side of cash, violence and the status quo – violently attacking and arresting 27 peaceful protesters. They arrested zero arms dealers.

One protesters’ charge was since dropped but 26 are still being prosecuted. At the first court appearance, back in November, protesters put in an initial plea of NOT GUILTY. Many plan to fight their charges.

The next court date is now coming up – 18th February. Come along and show your solidarity with those protesters who were arrested standing up against the arms dealers and NZDF!

We will be holding a rally outside the court at 8.30am. The hearing is set to be at 10am (though who knows how long they’ll make us wait!) and people should be able to come into the court room as well. If you can’t make it on the day and still want to show your solidarity, please share the event, invite your friends and share/donate to the GiveaLittle page to help with legal costs: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/stopweaponsconf/12644829_1128990017164034_133629416229297115_n

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