'Fair go' protests for detained refugees

·2-min read

Refugee advocates have rallied across Australia to demand an end to the nation's long-running hotel and offshore detention policies.

The advocacy groups claim more than 100 medevac refugees - transferred from offshore detention for medical treatment under now-repealed medical evacuation laws - remain detained in city hotels.

About 250 are also being held offshore in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, they say.

Walk for Justice and a Fair Go for Refugees protests were held in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, Hobart, Perth, Albany and Darwin on Sunday.

In the heart of Melbourne, hundreds gathered at the State Library Victoria to hear from speakers including freed Medevac refugee Mostafa Azimbitar.

Mr Azimbitar was among about 60 refugees transferred to Australia under medevac laws who was suddenly released from the Park Hotel in Carlton in January.

Seven refugees are still being held at the makeshift Melbourne detention centre including one of Mr Azimbitar's friends.

The Kurdish-Iranian refugee said he could not understand why his "brothers remain behind the tinted glass of the Park prison".

"There's no privacy, no relaxation or comfort inside the walls of Australia's hotel prisons," he told the crowd.

"The silence of the Australia people gives power to those committing evil deeds. We enable crimes against humanity with our silence."

The movement is launching a renewed push for the release of all refugees and permanent visas, fair and timely assessment of refugee status claims and "safety net" income for those waiting on reviews of their claims.

Mr Azimbitar said he and other released Melbourne medevac refugees were still without clarity on long-term residency and unable to access any form of welfare if they have no income.

"We are not truly free," he said before grabbing a guitar and singing I Am Australian.

Prominent civil liberties lawyer Julian Burnside said refugees in hotel and offshore detention were being treated worse than criminals.

"Every human being has the right to seek asylum," he said.

"Why do we treat these people so badly? It's because we are lied to by our parliamentarians. They lie to us and it's almost impossible to get the truth out of them."

Melbourne attendees then walked to the Park Hotel where Don Khan, one of the refugees still being held there, addressed the crowd via video call.

The Palm Sunday rallies were backed by over 200 refugee, religious, political and human rights groups.

Elsewhere, speakers in Canberra urged federal MPs to "consign these horrendous policies to the dustbin of history" while Sydney-based advocates also called for the abolition of offshore detention camps.