Support safe action to protect refugees from COVID-19

By Refugee Action Collective

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My name is Kim. On Good Friday, I joined a safe, peaceful “car cavalcade” to extend care and compassion to 70 refugees trapped in crowded, unsafe conditions in a hotel in Melbourne’s north.

Over 1,200 doctors and other healthcare professionals have written to Peter Dutton, warning him that unsafe conditions are putting the refugees at risk of coronavirus infection – and even death. They have been ignored.

As an immuno-compromised person with chronic illness, I know that physical distancing saves lives and is a really important measure to ensure the safety of our entire community right now.

I would never participate in something that would put vulnerable people at risk. That’s why our peaceful “car cavalcade” ensured that each car held no more than two people, who were from the same household.

Despite the precautions the car cavalcade took to ensure our actions were safe, police used Victoria’s “stay at home” rules to issue around $47,000 in fines to 29 of the concerned citizens who participated. They also arrested RAC member Chris Breen for "inciting" the compassionate car cavalcade.

We intend to challenge the fines, and the charge. But we need a fighting fund for our legal costs and defence campaign.

This is a medical emergency

The 70 refugee men being held in the Mantra Hotel were brought to Australia for urgent medical treatment.

For months, they have been held in crowded conditions on a single floor of the hotel, with up to four people to a room.

Many have underlying medical conditions - including asthma, diabetes and heart and kidney problems - that make them highly vulnerable if exposed to the coronavirus.

It is impossible for these refugee men to stay 1.5 metres apart. With guards coming and going and failing to practice physical distancing, the men are terrified that they will be exposed to the virus – and could even die.

1,400 vulnerable people

The refugees being held in the Mantra Hotel are among the most vulnerable of 1,400 people being held in immigration detention under unsafe conditions.

In detention, refugees are forced to share dining rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. They come into frequent close contact with guards. The coronavirus could spread like wildfire, putting lives at risk.

That’s why the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and the Australian College of Infection Prevention and Control have urged the Government to release people held in immigration detention into safe community housing.

Care and compassion

Under the Victorian “stay at home” rules, we are allowed to leave our homes for care and other compassionate reasons.

Health laws shouldn't be used to stop responsible citizens from taking safe, physically distanced action to support vulnerable people. Coronavirus shouldn't be used to stamp out the right to protest. Chris Breen was charged under the 1958 anti-protest law of "incitement".

Right now, the 70 refugee men trapped in unsafe conditions in the Mantra Hotel urgently need our care and compassion. Without responsible community action, their lives are at risk.

Today, can you chip in to our fighting fund and show your support for safe, responsible community action for refugee rights?

PS We’ll use every last dollar to continue the campaign for refugee rights, and to provide practical aid to people seeking asylum who are being denied critical humanitarian assistance by our government during this crisis.

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Team Members

Chris Breen

Lucy Honan