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.

– 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.

– Manus island detention centre operated between 2001-2004. Nauru was previously open between 2001-2008. Both have since been reopened and operating since 2012.

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