20 March 2015
Down With War on Refugees!
Full Citizenship Rights Now!
The following article is reprinted from Australasian Spartacist No. 225 (Autumn 2015), newspaper of the Spartacist League of Australia.
Under Australia’s notorious mandatory detention policy, first implemented by the Keating Labor government and imposed by successive Liberal and Labor governments with increasing brutality, desperate refugees continue to be imprisoned indefinitely in detention camps under atrocious conditions. Many of those now incarcerated have fled imperialist devastation in their homelands of Afghanistan and Iraq or imperialist-backed terror in Sri Lanka. Under legislation introduced in 2013 by the then Rudd Labor government, refugees arriving by boat are now denied asylum in Australia. Thousands have been transferred to remote Pacific islands where they languish while their claims are “processed.” On top of these measures the current Liberal/National Coalition government has closely cooperated with the murderous Sri Lankan regime to intercept and return refugees fleeing from there to Australia. Under a shroud of secrecy enforced by the government, Australian naval and customs authorities have also intercepted refugees at sea and forced them back to transit points in Indonesia.
Australia is the only country in the world that mandates the indefinite detention of refugee children as the first and only option. A recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission into children in detention highlights the nightmare refugees experience. It revealed alarming rates of mental illness, self-harm, and assault. The [Tony] Abbott government’s response to the report was to first delay its release and then denounce it as a political exercise.
The federal government’s cruel mistreatment of refugees, fully backed by the Labor Party, is consistent with Australia’s racist history, from the dispossession and brutal oppression of the Aboriginal people to the White Australia policy to keep Asian and dark-skinned masses out. Today, the ongoing war against immigrants and Aborigines is designed to sow divisions amongst the working class and thwart united struggles against the union-busting, profit-gouging capitalist rulers.
The multiracial proletariat has the social power and interest to come to the defence of refugees. But the obstacle to mobilising the working class is the pro-capitalist trade-union misleadership, which buys into and promotes Australian nationalism. A class-struggle leadership of the unions, linked to a revolutionary workers party, would fight to close the detention camps and inscribe on its banner: Full citizenship rights for all who have made it here!
We print below an 11 February protest letter to Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, from the Partisan Defence Committee (PDC) in Australia. The PDC is a class-struggle non-sectarian legal and social defence organisation whose political views are in accordance with the Spartacist League/Australia.
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We protest the federal government’s vicious persecution of refugees. For having the temerity to seek a safe place to live, refugees (including women and children) arriving in Australia by boat are held captive in detention centres. Suffering under the government’s cruel policy of indefinite mandatory detention the only options given to these asylum seekers are to return to the country they fled, where they face the very real prospect of death, imprisonment or torture, or in the case of those incarcerated on Nauru and Manus Island, to “resettle” in impoverished Cambodia or Papua New Guinea (PNG).
With no other means of protesting, desperate refugees are increasingly putting their lives in jeopardy. In January hundreds of refugees went on hunger strike on Manus Island, protesting the conditions which they aptly likened to those at the notorious U.S.-run Guantánamo Bay prison and torture centre. The hunger strike ended when security guards stormed the compounds and amongst other things seized mobile phones, one of the few means refugees have of communicating their situation to the outside world.
It is reported that the Manus Island centre increasingly resembles a secretive prison camp with threats, arbitrary raids, beatings, and the disappearing of anyone thought to be “of interest.” Approximately 58 refugees were forcibly removed from the detention centre and jailed in appalling conditions in the PNG prison system.
Iranian detainees on hunger strike against their indefinite detention at Darwin’s Wickham Point detention centre are being met with the same callousness and contempt. This, despite the fact that one of them is close to death.
We condemn the government’s ongoing persecution of asylum-seekers and demand: Close the detention centres! Release all the detainees immediately with full citizenship rights in Australia!
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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1064, 20 March 2015)
Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.