Australians rally to demand end to government’s overseas refugee camps (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)
The “Close the camps, Bring them here” rallies took place in seven Australian cities on Saturday. Thousands of protesters gathered in Sydney carrying banners reading “Seeking asylum is not a crime – close the camps now!” and “close Manus, close Nauru.”
Other demonstrators held up placards saying “Bring them here, they can stay at mine!” and “I can’t believe we are still having to protest this sh*t,” as they marched towards Sydney Town Hall.
A large protest also took place in Melbourne, where a heavy police presence was visible.
The protesters had already won a partial victory when Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced that his country had agreed with Australia to close the controversial Manus Island detention center. However, the 854 asylum seekers there still face an uncertain future.
Australia’s immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said they will not be resettled in Australia, explaining “We’re talking to third countries at the moment to look at settlement options,” according to ABC.
The Australian public has been shocked by revelations that systematic abuse against children and adults has been taking place at the overseas refugee camps run by their government.
A leak seen by the Guardian from inside the detention system exposed more than 2,000 reports from the Nauru detention center detailing sexual abuse, self-harm, and unfit living conditions – half of which concerned children.
One report described how a guard reacted by laughing when one girl sewed her mouth shut. Another girl reportedly pointed to her vagina and said that a male detainee had “cut her from under.”
Thirty cases of self-harm involving children were also reported, as well as over 150 cases in which children had threatened to harm themselves.
In one incident, a teacher reported that a girl had requested increased shower times. “Her request has been accepted on condition of sexual favors. It is a male security person. She did not state if this has or hasn’t occurred. The security officer wants to view a boy or girl having a shower,” the report reads.