Refugee protestors to sit in at Andrew Leigh’s office

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FIVE Canberrans will undertake a peaceful sit-in at the Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh’s office at 11.30am today.

Their action is a call for Mr. Leigh to denounce the refugee policies endorsed by both the Coalition government and ALP. This action is part of a growing push, ahead of the ALP 2015 National Conference, for Labor to adopt a more humane asylum seeker policy platform.

“The recent controversial provisions to the Border Force Act are the latest in a long line of policies whose aim it is to eradicate transparency,” a spokesperson for the group said.

“Every facet of Australia’s refugee policy is designed to be secretive, hidden from the Australian people. We think this is a poor standard for anygovernment policy, but particularly one that has been indicted for human rights abuses both internally and by the United Nations. Currently reporters cannot interview detainees, or bring cameras into detention centres. Workers have been silenced from speaking about conditions in centres. This allows abuse to occur, and we are unsure why the government feels the need for this level of secrecy.

“We would also like the ALP to recognise that Australia’s refugee policy takes too narrow a view of what policy success should look like. It is our feeling that deaths at the hands of the Taliban,the guards on Manus island, or the torture and murder of Tamil refugees after their boats are turned back by the Australian Navy are no less tragic than drownings. Mandatory detention and turnbacks trap refugees between dying in their home country, or suffering human rights abuses in our care, in the name of preventing drownings. “Stop the boats” policies only pay attention to what happens to asylum seekers at sea, not before or after.

“Our peaceful occupation of Mr. Leigh’s office is a call for the ALP, and Andrew Leigh specifically, to denounce a cruel policy that has seen young men die in detention, creates long-term mental health problems for those imprisoned, and, perhaps worst of all, treats asylum seekers who come by boat as “illegals,” “queue jumpers” and “security threats,” rather than giving them the support we would expect were we unfortunate enough to be in their position.

“Every time we see news about conditions on Manus Island or Nauru, or the death of a refugee in our care, we feel powerless to change things. Our feelings of hopelessness cannot compare to what asylum seekers must face every day. We are driven by the hope that we can right this injustice, and hope the ALP will stand with us in doing so.”

UPDATE: The protestors have sent images from their occupation at this time (1:10 pm) they are still inside and have not been formally asked to leave.

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