On Friday the 17th of November, the University of Sydney Disabilities & Carers Collective held a protest outside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office, condemning the current refugee crisis and demanding the immediate evacuation of Manus Island.
We also delivered a statement & list of demands, which you can read below, or download as a word document here: University of Sydney Disabilities and Carers Collective Statement and List of Demands. You can also read it at the Disabilities & Carers Collective’s Facebook page here.
University of Sydney Disabilities & Carers Collective Statement in Solidarity With Manus Island Refugees & Condemning the Ongoing Refugee Crisis
The University of Sydney Disabilities & Carers Collective acknowledges:
- (i) That Australia is a racist settler state built on colonial violence;
(ii) that the founders of “Australia” also came here on boats and without permission;
(iii) that sovereignty was never ceded and there is no treaty with our Indigenous peoples;
(iv) that the Aboriginal Provisional Government and the Indigenous Social Justice Association have stated that asylum seekers are welcome on Aboriginal lands in Australia;
(v) and that the false Australian government consequently has no right to refuse entry to refugees.
- (i) That the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which Australia ratified in 1954, defines a refugee as someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion;
(ii) that 90% of asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat have been found to be legitimate refugees under the UN Convention, even though the terms of the Convention itself are limited;
(iii) that the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Control’s insistence on referring to legitimate refugees as “illegal maritime arrivals” and “immigration detention detainees” is dehumanising and disingenuous.
- (i) That according to Australia’s ratification of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, this government has an obligation to provide aid to refugees fleeing persecution, regardless of whether Australia has processed their claim or recognised their refugee status;
(ii) that the Convention must be applied without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, country of origin, sex, age, disability, sexuality, or other prohibited grounds of discrimination;
(iii) that the Convention recognises that refugees are often forced to breach immigration rules and should not be penalised for entering or staying illegally, nor should their freedom of movement be restricted, and that prohibited penalties include charges of immigration or criminal offences relating to the seeking of asylum, or arbitrary detainment purely on the basis of seeking asylum;
(iv) that the Convention stipulates that no one shall expel or return (“refoule”) a refugee against their will, in any manner whatsoever, to a territory where they fear threats to life or freedom;
(v) that under the Convention refugees have rights including the right to access to the courts, to primary education, to work, and the provision for documentation, including a refugee travel document in passport form;
(vi) and that according to the Convention Australia is currently failing its obligations to refugees.
- (i) That Nauru and Manus Island are deeply harmful environments;
(ii) that refugees on Nauru and Manus and in onshore detention centres experience a disproportionate prevalence of PTSD, suicidal ideation, and self-harm, as a direct result of their retraumatising surroundings;
(iii) that the Australian government has placed refugees in environments that have caused them to develop mental, emotional, and physical disabilities arising out of trauma and neglect;
(iv) that the Australian government has consequently failed to provide adequate healthcare to refugees.
- (i) That forcible institutionalisation of marginalised peoples is detrimental to health, happiness, freedom, and autonomy;
(ii) that the forcible institutionalisation of disabled people is not so different to the forcible institutionalisation of refugees, and in both instances leads to further traumatisation, abuse, and neglect;
(iii) and that disabled people in our Collective and the refugees on Manus, Nauru, and in onshore detention, many of whom are disabled themselves, share a common struggle.
- (i) That potential healthcare costs of refugees and asylum seekers are not a reason to deny them aid;
(ii) that the above argument is a deeply eugenicist position and one that is predicated on the assumption that the worth of a human life can be determined by how much a person costs the state;
(iii) that the above argument perpetuates harmful narratives around health and healthcare that are deeply dangerous to disabled people;
(iv) that the above argument violates the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees’ protections against discrimination on the basis of disability;
(v) that refugee lives have worth regardless of how expensive their medical bills are;
(vi) that it is a community’s responsibility to care for each other;
(vii) and that refugees are part of our community.
- (i) That Australia has a responsibility to the refugees placed on Manus Island and subsequently abandoned;
(ii) that the “alternative accommodations” provided to the abandoned refugees on Manus are not safe or adequate;
(iii) that the refugees on Manus have a reasonable fear of persecution and violence if they continue to stay in Papua New Guinea;
(iv) that Papua New Guinea’s immigration department and chief of police have issued statements disavowing responsibility for the Manus refugees and have called on Australia to fulfil its legal obligations;
(v) that to place refugees in the harmful conditions on Manus was a human rights violation to begin with, and that to abandon them there is not a solution to the harm of offshore detention processing, but rather a compounding of the violence and mistreatment directed towards refugees applying to Australia for aid in the face of persecution.
Consequently, the The University of Sydney Disabilities & Carers Collective demands:
- That the Australian government evacuate the refugees and asylum seekers presently on Manus Island, close the detention centre on Nauru for good, and bring all the refugees and asylum seekers to the place of their choosing, whether that be Australia or New Zealand;
- That all mandatory detainment of refugees and asylum seekers should cease immediately;
- That all refugees and asylum seekers should be released into the community, and be given justice, freedom, legal and medical aid, and proper humanitarian support without delay;
- That Peter Dutton, the current Immigration Minister, be sacked, for gross dereliction of duty, for perpetuating harmful misinformation about refugees, and for participating in a system that enacted dire human rights abuses;
- That all future legislative approaches to refugees and asylum seekers, in both the government and the non-government sectors, across local, regional, national, and international levels, be led by consultation with the refugee community and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
- That specific laws be implemented prohibiting the mandatory detention of refugees and asylum seekers;
- That the Australian government fulfil its obligations to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, including providing refugees with freedom, settlement, and humanitarian resources regardless of the way in which they came here;
- That the Australian government implement strategies for proper humanitarian aid with regard to refugees and asylum seekers travelling to Australia in dangerous conditions, including maritime rescue operations;
- That refugees and asylum seekers should be reunited with their families in cases where they have been involuntarily separated;
- That the Australian government adopt policies of accountability and repatriation, including acknowledging the torture and abuse that has been enacted under the auspices of the Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Border Control, and making amends to those who have been directly or indirectly harmed as a result of the traumatising system of mandatory detention, the provision of appropriate healthcare and community support, and that the refugees and asylum seekers who have been harmed as a result of Australian government policies should be compensated along with their families, and that compensation should also be given to families of those who have lost their lives after being deported or forced to self-deport to danger.
F R E E O U R P E O P L E !
The 2017 Disabilities & Carers Collective Office-Bearers
Mollie Galvin, Hannah Makragelidis, and Noa Zulman
The 2018 Disabilities & Carers Collective Office-Bearers
Robin Eames, Mollie Galvin, and Ren Rennie