UMSU Offers Sanctuary to Asylum Seekers

The University of Melbourne Student Union Student’s Council opposes the Australian Government’s plan, following a failed high court challenge in January, to deport 267 asylum seekers to offshore detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru.

Most of the 267 asylum seekers at risk of deportation were brought to the Australian mainland for medical treatment which could not be adequately provided on Manus Island or Nauru. This number also includes 91 children, of whom 37 are babies born in Australia, and 36 are children attending Australian schools. UMSU condemns the plan to deport these vulnerable people, and call on the government to let them stay.

Manus Island and Nauru detention centres are unsafe and inhumane. Conditions in detention cause immense harm to the physical health of those detained, and in many cases lead to long-term mental health issues—this is evident not only in the opinions consistently voiced by medical professionals, but also in the disgraceful rates of self-harm and suicide in the detention system. What’s more, Australia’s offshore detention centres have been tarnished by countless allegations of physical and sexual assault. UMSU believe the government is not treating these allegations with the severity they warrant.

Fortunately, the government’s plans have met widespread opposition in the community—protests and worker’s actions nationwide have called for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to uphold compassion over brutality. Moreover, five state and territory leaders, including Labor leaders in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and the ACT, have called on the Turnbull government not to return the 267. Houses of worship Australia-wide have followed suit, putting themselves in legal and physical danger in offering sanctuary to the 267. We stand in solidarity with these moves and as such, offer actions of our own.

We offer the our spaces in the Union House building as a sanctuary to the 267, and we are ready to mobilise the university’s community to defend that sanctuary. Should sanctuary be required, we also call on the University and colleges to follow suit by offering their facilities to the same end. If the government continues to refuse the 267 the protection they deserve, we will do what we can—morally, financially and materially—to provide and campaign for their protection.

We call on the state government not to cooperate with the Federal Government’s heartless demands. We officially endorse the Palm Sunday rally for refugees on March 20th, and support any further actions as part of the Let Them Stay campaign. We encourage students to stand up and involve themselves in these actions. The Facebook event for this rally can be found here:

Asylum seekers have fled atrocities many Australians cannot begin to understand, and ought to be treated with compassion and care. Forcing them offshore to abuse and suffering, driving parents to despair, and robbing children of a childhood is immoral, and it will not be done in our name.