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Calls for Civil Disobedience in Australia Over Children's Offshore Detention

Categories: Oceania, Australia, Human Rights, Law, Politics, Protest, Refugees
Let Them Stay - OHCHR Facebook [1]

#LetThemStay – Courtesy United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) Facebook page

A High Court decision [3] upholding Australia's offshore detention system for people seeking asylum has prompted calls for civil disobedience. Many people are particularly outraged that there are 80 children including 37 babies among 267 people currently facing deportation. Among them is a five year-old boy allegedly raped on Nauru.

A campaign focusing on the children, based on the theme of #LetThemStay [4], had commenced before the judgment.

First Dog on the Moon's cartoon for the Guardian Australia [5] captured the widespread revulsion:


The current policy [9]for ‘border protection’ is aimed at refugee arrivals who come by boat. It has two main arms:

1. Offshore detention on either Nauru or Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, with the aim of resettlement in regional countries for those successful in their asylum claims. Essentially anywhere but Australia. Most remain in detention centres because of the lack of acceptable countries for relocation.

2. Turning back of refugee boats heading for Australia.

The stated goals include defeating people smuggling and ending deaths at sea.

The BBC canvassed the broader issues in a November 2015 article Australia asylum: Why is it controversial? [10] Public opinion is divided:

Domestically, asylum is a hot political issue. Polls have shown that a significant number of Australians approve of taking a tougher stance

The Australian Human Rights Commission also has an online guide [11] for anyone seeking detailed information.

Doctors defying the law

Staff who work or have worked at the island detention centres are prevented by law from commenting on their experiences. This has not prevented a number from speaking out [12]. This video presents the views of Sydney paediatrician Hasantha Gunasekera:

The doctors have strong support as founder of the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre indicates:

Clergy risk gaol to offer sanctuary

Following the court decision, several churches have been offered as sanctuary. The Anglican dean of Brisbane has taken a leading role, defying a possible ten year gaol term:

Inciting Civil Disobedience

Michael Short, columnist at Melbourne's daily newspaper The Age, was one of many who has called for action:

He was not alone:

Quick action

Refugee groups quickly organised snap rallies and mass protests around the nation:

The United Nations Human Rights office was prompt in criticising the situation:

Their Facebook page [1] urged “Australia to refrain from transferring all concerned individuals to Nauru.”

In the latest development Daniel Andrews, the Premier of the State of Victoria, has offered to take in the 267 people: