Refugee rallies mark Operation Sovereign Borders anniversary


Thousands of people have rallied around Australia to protest the first anniversary of the federal government's refugee policies.

More than 1000 people attended the rally in Melbourne, where speakers including ACTU president Ged Kearney, Greens MP Adam Bandt, and Labor MP Lisa Chesters joined a number of refugees in calling for Operation Sovereign Borders to be scrapped.

The noisy but peaceful rally then marched through the CBD to the front of Liberal Party headquarters, where there were more pro-refugee chants and speeches.

"People are out in force because today marks a year since the Abbott government decided to turn a human problem into a military one," Mr Bandt told reporters at the rally.

Mr Bandt said the occasion marked one year of cruelty and secrecy, with 800 children still held in detention and the deaths of two people.

"The government is quite happy to take television cameras along when it conducts raids, and when it considers it's in its own political interests, yet there has been a shroud of secrecy thrown over the way that Australia is treating people who are coming here seeking our help," he said.

Mr Bandt said Australia used to take people from places like Cambodia, and now it sent them there.

"People know that you can't stop the boats, you can only hide the boats, and that's what this government is doing," he said.

Ms Kearney told the rally the policy was "steeped in such lies of crisis, of numbers that do not exist".

"It's steeped in misunderstanding and populism," she said.

Ms Kearney said it ignored international laws, the advice of health and legal professionals, as well as ethical standards.

But she said there were alternatives.

"We could actually collaborate on a proper regional solution. We could work with Indonesia and the UN. God forbid, we could actually rescue people from sinking boats, and bring there here and treat them," she said.

Source AAP

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