Hundreds of people marched to the Australian parliament on Tuesday to demand the government suspend its policy of sending asylum seekers and refugees to remote Pacific territories, and bring children already detained on Manus Island to Australia.
About 500 protesters representing 30 different groups from around rural Australia, including high school students, took part in the rally, amid mounting concern over a five-year-old offshore detention policy that requires any asylum seekers who attempt to get to Australia by boat to be held offshore and banned from ever settling in Australia itself.
The march was organised to “focus attention on the plight of asylum seekers and refugees who remain on Nauru and Manus Island, and particularly the need to provide homes and safety for children and their families either in Australia, or in another country that would welcome them”, Rural Australians for Refugees said in a statement.
On Monday, nearly 6,000 doctors delivered a letter calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to remove children from detention given the serious physical and mental health risks they face.
“The medical profession is demanding children and families be moved from Nauru,” the Australian Medical Association tweeted on Tuesday. “For thousands of doctors to be motivated to take this course of action is testament to the severity and the urgency of this issue.”
Three representatives from the ruling Liberal Party also broke ranks to call for the children to be brought to Australia.
About 1,100 people are currently being held on Nauru including 102 children, according to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Single men are detained on nearby Manus Island.
Rallies have been held previously against the treatment of refugees held in offshore detention centres [File: David Gray/Reuters]