Religious leaders stage asylum seeker sit-in

Daniel Emerson
Religious leaders are taken away by police after staging a sit-in outside Senator Michaelia Cash's office. Picture: Sharon Smith/The West Australian

Eleven female religious leaders have been arrested and taken into police custody after staging a protest at the West Perth office of federal minister Michaelia Cash.

The women were protesting against the Government’s treatment of asylum seekers in a sit-in timed to coincide with tomorrow’s White Ribbon Day, which aims to stamp out violence against women.

A WA Police spokesman said the protestors were arrested and taken to Perth Train Station where they were issued with move-on notices preventing them from revisiting the area within 24 hours.

No charges were laid.

Police had been attempting to talk the peaceful protestors out of Senator Cash’s Outram Street office without arresting them.

Senator Cash is the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Women and the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

Christian pastors staging a similar protest at the Subiaco office of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop were each fined $50 in May after pleading guilty to trespassing.

In a statement, today’s protest organisers said the women refused to leave Senator Cash’s office until she committed to a date when all 726 children in immigration detention would be released.

“The women did not disrupt the business of the office, and engaged in quiet prayer,” the statement said.

“This sit-in is part of the Love Makes A Way movement which has seen more than 100 Christian leaders arrested this year.

“Churches and their agencies in WA have offered to accommodate and support children and families in the community while their claims are being processed. This offer was rejected by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

The group of women were inspired by tomorrow’s White Ribbon Day to encourage Senator Cash to become a champion for women and girls in immigration detention centres.”

Teresa Lee, Co-founder of First Home Project, Churches of Christ, was quoted saying: “Sharing a home with refugees has helped me understand that love can be our only response to those who come to Australia seeking safety. I pray that if my son were ever locked up indefinitely in another country, the local women would take similar action for his release.”

Another protestor, Australian Christian Churches and Salvation Army drug and alcohol worker Jeanette Fernandez said “Growing up in the Salvation Army taught me that God has special concern for the weakest and most marginalised people. These children are suffering, but completely invisible to comfortable Australians. I just want these kids to have the same safety that my own three children enjoy.”

An officer of Senator Cash said the minister would not be commenting on the protest.