Barbed wire twisted around the rails of dozens of cots on world famous Bondi Beach at first light this morning. The eerie sight was a part of a campaign called “Let Them Stay” imploring the Australian Government to change its mind on forcing 267 asylum seekers – comprising of young babies who have been born in Australia as well as kids currently attending local primary schools – back to detention facilities on remote islands. The cots at Bondi this morning represent 37 babies who are part of this group.  

The campaign has reached an emotional high in recent days with protests and rallies being held in capital cities around the country with messages such as “I can’t believe we even need to protest the torture of kids”, and “Education, not detention.” The public outcry has gained momentum with the recent High Court decision that Australia indeed does have a constitutional right to run offshore detention centres. This ruling is controversial due to a rushed change in the legislation half way through 2015

Australia has used offshore centres to process protection visa applications from asylum seekers who have arrived to our shores by boat since 1992. However, as it stands, there have been many reports of violence, sexual assault of minors and adults, and inadequate health and medical resources in Australia’s two offshore detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. One man was beaten to death and another died because of a leg infection that was out of control due to delayed treatment. Further studies have found extensive mental health issues for those who are in mandatory detention facilities – especially problematic as many people seeking protection have fled warzones and traumatic situations and found themselves unsure of their future.

The Australian Government led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has since announced it will not let the 267 men, women, children and babies stay in Australia in order to maintain its tough stance of secure borders.

Journalist David Marr has long covered the issues of asylum seekers in Australia and this week he wrote an article in the Guardian saying that the community sentiment was starting to shift. 

He writes,

“But something is happening here. Australians are starting to pay attention. Ever since that first boat arrived in Darwin in 1976 most of us have shared the fears and backed the tough responses that have brought us to this point: punish or we will be overwhelmed. Most of us still do.

But the thought of little children being returned to Nauru with no prospect of release is beginning to trouble us. What the doctors have been saying for two or three years now can’t be dismissed. Ditto the verdicts of the Human Rights Commission, the UN and the churches.

The story is gathering momentum.”

And he is correct. A pediatrician and a school principal risked jail by coming forward to shed light on the plight of people in detention to fellow Australians. Churches are offering the historic action of “sanctuary” with one man saying he is willing to risk jail to protect people at risk. Many of Australia’s State and Territory leaders have also urged the Government to let them stay.

Ok Buddies! Day of online action nationwide. Make your sign and hashtag #letthemstay

A photo posted by Buddies Refugee Support Group (@refugee_buddies) on

The fact remains that if these people are returned to Nauru and Manus Island, they will face much uncertainty about their future, and will be living in extremely harsh conditions where self harm, malnutrition, abuse and little medical assistance are day to day realities. Reports have already emerged describing many of the asylum seekers feeling terrified at the prospect of returning. One Australian cartoonist recently illustrated the sad truth with a guard outside barbed wire fencing off a family of asylum seekers, “If you didn’t want to be tortured, you should have thought of that before you fled death and persecution.”


Demand Equity

#LetThemStay awakens Australians attention to fight injustice

By Julie Kerr