Welcome Refugees

On the 7 December 2013 in a co-ordinated effort the Refugee Action Collective (Vic) are attempting a mass action “to shower the streets of Melbourne with messages of welcome.”

Refugee Action Collective (Vic) rally at State Library.

Refugee Action Collective (Vic) rally at State Library.

Leaving your country is never easy and even people facing persecution do not take the move lightly. Refugees need to be welcomed, protected and helped; this is the basic standard of a civilised person. Any civilised, rational or moral human would welcome and protect a person fleeing persecution or death, it is an ancient tradition now codified in international law. Australia’s treatment of refugees is a crime against humanity perpetrated by a rogue state backed by a racist mob. Amnesty International reports that: “The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Australia to be in breach of its obligations under international law, committing 143 human rights violations by indefinitely detaining 46 refugees for four years, on the basis of ASIO’s ‘adverse security assessments’.”

Not that I think that any propaganda campaign of posters, fridge magnets and rallies can change the minds of the amoral psychopaths that dictate Australia’s crimes against refugees. I doubt that it will be any more effective than my rhetoric.

The Refugee Action Collective (Vic) was mildly calling for civil disobedience in encouraging people to “sticker, chalk your neighbourhood”. For yes, even writing in chalk is technically illegal in Melbourne; not that I’ve ever heard of anyone being arrested for it, not that the three police at the demonstration were making any attempt to stop people writing in chalk in front of the State Library. Not that many people were writing in chalk on Saturday morning.

Christmas Island Just Visiting

Dignity 4 asylum Seekers

Melbourne’s street artists have been putting out the welcome refugees and showering the streets with more witty about Australia’s treatment messages for years. Of particular note, is Phoenix who has made the map of Australia into a welcome mat in a long running series of paste-ups. Phoenix sums up the both major parties position on refugees with the phrase: “We scare because we care”, a phrase that started with his paste-ups about the ‘War on Terror’. Phoenix is not directly involved with the Refugee Action Collective but his has donated some of his art to their fundraising auction. He is not a single-issue street artist and has been sticking his political art to Melbourne’s walls for years.

Phoenix welcome mat sticker with Ghostpatrol tag.

Phoenix welcome mat sticker with Ghostpatrol tag.

This sustained campaigns of illegal posters and stencils creates signs that the federal government and the opposition does not represent all Australians on this issue and is not in complete control of the territory it claims. Even though it was buffed with in 24 hours I’m sure that my local member, Kelvin Thomson got the message when the external wall of his office in Coburg was recently covered in anarchist graffiti.

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About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

10 responses to “Welcome Refugees

  • artandarchitecturemainly

    What strikes me as blindingly hypocritical is that 26% of Victorians were born overseas. More have at least one parent born overseas and probably half the state has at least one grandparent who wanted a new, safer life here.

    There but for the grace of God go all of us. My family came from Russia; Joe is from Czechoslovakia; my daughters in law came from Syria and Egypt; mum’s sisters married young men from Romania and Israel; my brothers married into Polish and Hungarian families. Not asylum seekers in that they had legal visas, but desperate for a new, safer home.

    Except for aboriginal families, we are/were ALL refugees!

  • sukiesoriginal

    I have a friend who fled Hungary with his family as a child – an horrific experience, but far better than what they were leaving behind. It was the plight of the present wave of refugees that prompted him to share his story.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Luckily, none of my family has been refugees for well over a century but I grew up in a city that welcomed refugees: London, Ontario, Canada. I met refugees from the Prague Spring, from US conscription laws and I had a Ugandan Indian in my class at school. I’m glad that my post has sparked this discussion.

    • sukiesoriginal

      Yes, everyone who cares needs to keep talking about it.

  • Ms Zhang

    Kelvin Thomson is one of the few politicians who already gets it about refugees. He was the first politician in Australia to advocate an increase in refugee intake from 13,750 to 20,000 in November 2010. The Green followed suit twelve months later announcing this intake as their policy in December 2011. The 20,000 level policy was adopted by Labor Government in 2012, but now the Abbott wrecking ball has dismantled this. Kelvin Thomson is actively working with and helping the refugees in Wills and Australia…just look up or ask Jahinga Hosseini and other refugees.

    • Mark Holsworth

      If Thomson “already gets it about refugees” then why is he a member of a party that puts them in concentration camps? A party that has committed crimes against humanity in abusing the rights of refugees? Claims that he can do some good while doing a lot of harm are not that impressive.

  • hollywoodsam

    I’m so tired of the use of ‘Illegal’. Still they [liberals] use it after being corrected many times. More important is the fact they, refugees are people, not detainees or illegals. Damn hypocritical…protect our boarders because we all came here on boat and stuffed up the Aboriginals, we don’t want that to happen us this time.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Complaining about terminology is a side issue. All members of the Liberal and Labor party should be put on trial for their crimes against humanity. Let them argue their case from the dock in the Hague.

    • hollywoodsam

      Yes but, the language they use filters down into the public arena, causing uninformed opinions amongst the voters of this country.

    • Mark Holsworth

      The respect given to those charged with crimes against humanity by bigots is not due to the language that the accused use but because the bigots believe that anything done in the name of Australia (or god, or America) is justified.

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