Thousands protest Australia’s refugee detention policy

Demonstrators march during a protest to demand humane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, in Sydney on July 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Thousands protest Australia’s refugee detention policy

  • “Any country that openly rejects compassion and instead tortures people who we know are innocent, in order to make them a deterrent... has somehow lost its soul"
  • Canberra has tried to resettle those recognized as refugees to third countries such as the US

SYDNEY: Thousands of people marched across major Australian cities Saturday calling for an end to Canberra’s offshore detention of asylum-seekers.
The government sends anyone who tries to enter the country by sea to camps on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island or on Nauru in the Pacific for processing.
Protesters took to the streets to mark the fifth anniversary of the policy’s reintroduction, when in 2013 Canberra significantly toughened its stance, signing deals with the Pacific nations and declaring anyone arriving by boat had “no chance” of being settled in Australia.
“The policy that was introduced in 2013, to expel people — the ‘Fortress Australia’ policy that they (the government) put in place — that has to go,” rally organizer Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition told Sydney protesters.
“So we fight to close the detention centers on Manus and Nauru, but we fight in that process to bring them here.”
Hundreds marched through Sydney shouting, “Free, free the refugees,” with banners stating, “Five years too long, evacuate Manus and Nauru.” Joint rallies were held in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth.
Canberra says its policy deters people from embarking on treacherous sea journeys, but rights groups and the United Nations have slammed the wealthy nation for turning its back on vulnerable people, as reports of abuse, suicide and despondency filter out of the camps.
“Any country that openly rejects compassion and instead tortures people who we know are innocent, in order to make them a deterrent... has somehow lost its soul,” said Father Dave Smith, who recently returned from a visit to the Manus camp.
An Iranian man died in a apparent suicide on Nauru in June, with his body arriving in Australia last week after what Rintoul said took much lobbying of a reluctant Australian government, which initially said the man would be buried in Nauru or repatriated to Iran.
The deceased man’s mother, who requested his body be buried in a place the family could one day visit, remains on Nauru with her younger son but has been refused entry to Australia for the burial, Rintoul added.
This was the fifth death on Nauru since Australia’s offshore detention ramped up in July 2013, rights groups say, while seven have died on Manus during the same period.
Canberra has tried to resettle those recognized as refugees to third countries such as the US, and more than a hundred have been moved there, according to the Refugee Action Coalition.
But they say some 1,600 people remain on Nauru and Manus.


Tycoon killed in plane crash leaves $52m fortune to Oxfam

Updated 10 min 24 sec ago
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Tycoon killed in plane crash leaves $52m fortune to Oxfam

LONDON: A tycoon killed with his family in a seaplane crash in Australia on New Year's Eve left a $52 million fortune to the crisis-hit charity Oxfam.
The bequest comes at a time when Oxfam is trying to find $21 million in savings as it grapples with the fallout from a sex abuse scandal.
The charity, which has lost thousands of donors since reports earlier this year that its staff used prostitutes while working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, said it had only recently been notified and could not confirm the amount.
"We are extremely grateful for this bequest," Oxfam said in a statement.
Richard Cousins, 58, boss of catering giant Compass Group, died with sons William, 25, Edward, 23, fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, and her daughter Heather, 11, when their plane nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney.
The Sun newspaper reported that some time before the crash Cousins drew up a will with a "common tragedy clause", leaving his money to Oxfam in the event that he and his sons were killed together.
Oxfam said it was working with Cousins' family and its board of trustees to identify how the bequest would be used.
The sum is more than twice the amount received from legacies in the year 2016 to 2017.
The Sun said all but £3 million pounds of Cousins' fortune would go to the charity. Two brothers will receive £1 million each.
The seaplane was part of the Sydney Seaplanes business that has operated since 2005 with no previous record of mishap.
A preliminary investigation found it was off course, but could not determine the cause of the crash, which also killed Australian pilot Gareth Morgan.