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Australia pleads: Let Them Stay

Activists hold placards and chant slogans as they protest outside the offices of the Australian Immigration Department in Sydney. REUTERS/Jarni Blakkarly

Australia pleads: Let Them Stay

Demonstrations around Australia and online are taking place in protest against the Australian Government’s plans to remove 267 asylum seekers, including 37 babies, returning them to offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Islands.

The 267 were brought to Australia from detention to receive urgent medical treatment, 80 of these are children. According to Amnesty International in Australia, Paediatricians assessing the children say they “are among the most traumatised we have ever seen in our 50 years of combined professional experience”.

Rallies are taking place outside hospitals that are caring for asylum seekers, at Sydney’s iconic Bondi beach, over motorways and several other public sites. Medical staff at the Lady Cilento hospital in Queensland are refusing to discharge a 12 month old baby, who has been recovering from burns, until “a suitable home environment is identified.” Organisations like Get Up!, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Amnesty International have launch their ‘Let Them Stay’ campaign to unify people in their deep concern for the safety of the 267 people being returned.

In November last year 16 human rights committees, high profile journalists, presenters and Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, signed a joint statement calling for a Royal Commission into Operation Sovereign Borders. In the statement the 16 demanded transparency and accountability from the Australian government.

“We believe that Australia can protect people seeking asylum from exploitation without abusing their rights.​But for several years now we have heard increasingly frequent evidence of physical and sexual abuse of women, children and men in prison­like, Australian­run immigration detention centres.”

‘No more secrecy’ Joint Statement

This statement came soon after workers on Nauru wrote an open letter claiming that the then Abbott government was aware of sexual and physical abuse of women and children in the facility, for well over a year and a half.

There is no evidence to suggest the dangerous conditions have changed or that perpetrators have been brought to justice, though police investigations are in progress.

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