Thousands of people rallied around the country on Sunday demanding the closure of Australia's detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. Source: SBS News.
The “welcome refugees” rallies coincided with Palm Sunday, and were organised by several church and refugee rights groups.
Protesters say those in offshore detention are being ignored after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton called for white South African farmers to be fast-tracked through Australia's refugee program.
Melbourne Catholic reported two archdiocesan offices, the Office for Justice and Peace and the Melbourne Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, joined forces to hold a prayer session for asylum-seekers and refugees at St Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by a procession to the State Library for the Walk for Justice for Refugees.
Among those processing from the cathedral to the library were groups drawn from the Catholic education and wider social justice community.
The Walk for Justice for Refugees rally was supported by over 100 advocacy, faith and welfare organisations, including the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum, Jesuit Social Services, National Council of Churches of Australia and Refugee Council of Australia.
In Bendigo, about 50 people from church and refugee support groups held a “gathering of peace and justice” at Charing Cross, the Bendigo Advertiser reported.
They listened to speeches, and poems from people currently detained were read out.
Ken Rookes, of the Rural Australians for Refugees, said the movement would never go away – and the imagery of Jesus riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey remained as important now as it did more than 2000 years ago.
“It was a political act, an act which directly challenges the leadership of his nation,” Mr Rookes said.
“Jesus saved his sharpest condemnation for the powerful men who ruled his nation, denouncing them as hypocrites for pretending to follow God and yet being indifferent in their attitudes towards the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.
“A week later … those same leaders would falsely accuse him, discredit him, and see him condemned to death.
“Two thousand years later nothing much has changed.”
Meanwhile, 95 advocate groups across Australia banded together yesterday to oppose planned eligibility changes to a program that provides an allowance, casework support, housing assistance and counselling to potential refugees on temporary visas.
The changes by the Turnbull Government could result in homelessness and destitution, refugee advocates including Catholic Social Services Australia and the St Vincent de Paul society said yesterday.
Walk for Refugees takes to the city streets again in 2018 (Melbourne Catholic)
Refugee advocates rally against cuts (SBS News)
Hundreds rally in Wollongong for refugees on Palm Sunday (Illawarra Mercury)
Palm Sunday rally for refugees and asylum-seekers in Newcastle (Newcastle Herald)
ACT parliament calls to overhaul refugee sponsorship program (Canberra Times)