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Newsletter for 20 March 20128 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districtts

Next market stall Valla Beach 7th April
Next Roadside Demo - Coffs Base Hospital March 22th 2:30pm
Transfer of refugees to the USA
Update on Sri Lankan family deportation
Trapped in Nauru - a refugee story
Harmony Festival Sun 25th March
Bellingen market report

Our presence at the Bellingen market last Saturday was a great success. The sun shone, the crowds arrived and our dozen or so supporters had a really busy time talking to market-goers, handing out leaflets, encouraging people to sign our open letter to Bill Shorten and selling our merchandise. We collected more than 160 signatures on the open letter, sold a number of T shirts, tea towels and bags, signed up a lot of new supporters and had many interesting conversations with passers-by. People continue to express their dismay at the cruelty of our government’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. Many of them expressed outrage at Dutton’s latest suggestion to offer a home in Australia to wealthy, white, South African farmers, whilst denying refuge to  non-white, non-English- speaking people who have fled violence and persecution in their own countries, who have been granted refugee status, and who are now languishing in indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru.
Our next market stall will be at the Valla Beach market on Saturday 7th April. If you can lend a hand between 9.00 am and 1.30 pm, then please let Mike know by emailing him

Roadside demonstration: Thursday  22nd March. 2.30 to 4.00 pm Coffs Harbour

Our next roadside demonstration is this Thursday 22nd March in Coffs Harbour. You will find us by the Pacific Highway, opposite the Base hospital. We have lots of banners and placards to share, and it would be great to have a good turn out  to help us get our message across to the general public. Please come and join us if you can.

Transfers from Manus and Nauru to the US

Figures recently provided by the Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney indicate that, as of 11th March, 85 men have so far been transferred from Manus to the United States, leaving up to 800 trapped on the island or in Port Moresby. By the same date, 146 men, women and children have left Nauru for resettlement in the US, leaving more than 1000 refugees and asylum seekers in the detention centre or living elsewhere on this tiny island. Following Trump’s ban on immigration from a number of countries with a mostly Muslim population, no Iranians, Somalis, or Sudanese refugees have been accepted so far this year. It is almost eighteen months since this human trafficking deal was struck between the US and Australian governments, and yet to date only 231 refugees have travelled to the US. Meanwhile, conditions for asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru are unsafe, unsustainable and cruel.We should not continue to punish people in this way and we need to constantly remind our elected representatives that they do not act  in our name.
The famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who is currently in Australia, had this to say about the US-Australia refugee swap: “This is a complete insult to the understanding of refugees. It’s exactly like slave trading. You cannot deal with human beings by violating their rights.”

Update on the Sri Lankan family from Biloela

Since our report in last week’s newsletter, things have only got worse for this family. They spent much of last week in the Broadmeadows detention centre in Melbourne, before being taken to the airport without warning, from where they were flown to Perth. Along with a number of other Sri Lankan refugees, they were put on a plane destined for Sri Lanka. At the very last moment, following legal intervention, the family was removed from the plane and transferred to a detention centre. The local community in Biloela is outraged that a family from their community could be treated in this way, and so far they have collected more than 16,000 signatures on an online petition to minister Dutton, demanding that the family be returned to their community. As a writer in the SMH put it this week: “Our neighbours have been taken and we want them back.” You can find further details on the plight of the family by clicking on the link to our blog at the bottom of the newsletter. Please consider phoning minister Dutton’s office to protest about his department’s treatment of this family, whose two small children were born in Australia and know no other country. Telephone:  07 3205 9977 or 02 6277 7860. Alternatively you can email him at:

Trapped in Nauru: A refugee’s story

In this week’s The Saturday Paper there is a harrowing account of life in Nauru as experienced by Faisal, a 22- year old Rohingya refugee. It is clear from the account that refugees on the island live in fear for their lives, whether at the hands of the locals or the guards who are paid to protect them. Faisal, like many other refugees, has been attacked and robbed, been hospitalised and has made complaints to the police, who never take any action. The writer of the article reports that violence against refugees is rife in Nauru and that sometimes it is the security guards who attack them. One refugee reported to him that he ended up in hospital following an attack by guards at the detention centre, but that in spite of him reporting the matter to police, no action was taken.
It is hardly surprising that so many refugees are driven to despair, feel completely abandoned and suffer mental health problems. You can read the full article on our Facebook page by clicking on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.
Yet another example, if one were needed, to underline the urgent need to close these dangerous offshore detention centres and to bring the refugees to Australia for resettlement here or in other countries where they will be safe and where they can begin to rebuild their shattered lives.

Harmony Day reminder

A final reminder that Harmony Day celebrations will take place at the Botanic Gardens in Coffs Harbour on Sunday 25th March. If you can’t make it, but would like to experience a Harmony Day event, then you could head to Grafton on Saturday 24th March, where you can enjoy a day of activities from 9.00 am until 3.00 pm at the Grafton Showground on Prince Street.

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