“If you are appalled by the inhumane situation on Manus Island, here is a simple way you can take action. PLEASE SHARE! Call Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office on (02) 6277 7700 and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s office on (03) 9326 1300. Say you are horrified by the treatment of refugees held in PNG and Nauru, and that they should be evacuated immediately to safety.”
We caught up with Linda Cusworth and Lisa Gleeson from CRAG (Combined Refugee Action Group). CRAG is a network of groups from around the Geelong region, all advocating for fair and decent policy for refugees and people seeking asylum. CRAG is made up of coastal and rural refugee support groups, students, church groups, political groups, union members and concerned individuals.
“CRAG came about in 2013 after the announcement of the re-opening of offshore detention for people seeking asylum. We all had a feeling of ‘How dare this decision, to treat people in such an appalling manner, be made on our behalf?’
“Whatever you think about people arriving by boat to request safety from Australia, they are our fellow human beings. They need to be treated with fairness and dignity, not kept as captives indefinitely in poor, corrupt, third-world nations. They have been held for four-and-a-half years. Most have been assessed as refugees in genuine need of protection, yet they still have no date for release.
“People don’t run away from their homes, their families, their friends, everything they love, unless it is too dangerous for them to stay. People have fled things like ethnic cleansing; the Taliban; or life-threatening persecution for their religion, their political opinion or their sexuality. They asked for safety, but instead they’ve been warehoused offshore in terrible conditions. Imagine if these people were your children or your siblings. No-one deserves to be treated the way the people sent to Manus Island and Nauru have been treated. Not even our worst criminals are treated this way, and these people have done nothing wrong. All they want is freedom in a safe place.
“CRAG is for anyone who shares these concerns. An easy way you can join is to sign up to the mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org (Three of the Humans in Geelong team members, present at the interview, signed up on the spot!) CRAG can also be followed on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CombinedRefugeeActionGroup/
“We update our 600+ members regularly on actions they can take to make a difference. It might be signing petitions, sending letters, meeting with politicians, fundraising for legal support or coming along to events or rallies.
“We have a very long way to go for people to be treated with fairness and decency. Even refugees already in Australia are only offered temporary visas and are continually being traumatised by each hoop that they have to jump through, knowing they won’t be reunited with families, and at any stage they could be sent back to life threatening situations. The whole policy is appalling. But we have had some wins along the way. There is pressure for change from within Australia and internationally. United, we can make a difference.
Story: Jacqui Bennett Photo: Phil Hines Photography shows Linda on the left with Lisa.