ACT News

Hundreds rally in Canberra to support the rights of refugees

Sweltering heat did not deter hundreds of demonstrators who rallied in support of refugee rights on Saturday as part of the co-ordinated Walk Together 2014 campaign.

Organiser John Minns, of the Refugee Action Committee in Canberra, estimated more than 1500 people turned out to march on Parliament House to let refugees know they were welcome in the capital.

WALK FOR JUSTICE: Canberra Refugee Action Committee supporters walk to Parliament House to let refugees know they are ...
WALK FOR JUSTICE: Canberra Refugee Action Committee supporters walk to Parliament House to let refugees know they are welcome here.  Photo: Jay Cronan

"An extraordinary turnout here today," he said. "It really shows very clearly there are millions of people in the community who aren't happy and don't want to see a country based on xenophonbia and fear."

Hazara refugee Hyder Ali Naseemi said now he was settled in Australia he felt a responsibility to break down the negative stereotypes about asylum-seeking by telling his story.

SUNDAY RALLY: Supporters of refugees' rights march to Parliament House.
SUNDAY RALLY: Supporters of refugees' rights march to Parliament House. Photo: Jay Cronan

Mr Naseemi, who recently moved to Canberra to take up studies at ANU, recounted spending 15 months in Australian detention centres after arriving in Christmas Island.

"Hazaras are being targeted by Islamic extremists in suicide bomber attacks."

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"If people get to know the reason behind why people are risking their lives and come by boat to Australia it will make sure they don't consider refugees as a threat to their community, or a threat to their security," he said.

Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said it was vital people continued to speak up against policies they disagreed with.

"I think there is a sense that Australia has gone too far and we can [take] a more compassionate approach and perhaps the policies we have put in place have simply been too harsh," he said.

In light of Thursday's attack on the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, Mr Rattenbury said it was vital concerns for security did not blur the debate on immigration.

"The Canadian experience has underlined for me there is a limit to what security measures can do where you are going to see disenfranchised individuals mounting attacks," he said.

"It really points to the fact we need to build social cohesion and to ensure young people don't feel marginalised or disenfranchised but in fact feel part of our society."