“Will we finally be seen as normal people?”
Iranian asylum seeker Atena Kashani has been living in Australia for almost a decade but she has yet to be granted a permanent visa or refugee status.
“The Liberal Government denied my family who asked and pled to seek asylum; to be seen as a refugee. And they were denied,” she said at a rally commemorating World Refugee Day.
“I came to Australia in 2013 and since then, I’m still in limbo. And so are many other people.”
Placed on temporary or bridging visas instead of permanent protection visas, refugees are left in situation of fear, insecurity and vulnerability.
These temporary visas prevent asylum seekers from travel, family reunion and work rights. Without being able to enjoy these human rights, how can they ever expect to establish new lives in Australia?
Refugee rights are a union issue. Our fight as unionists is to create a better, brighter future for all. An end to exploitation for all. To win justice for all. This includes refugees – many of whom are workers.
Refugee activist and union member David Glanz called for an end to the ‘Stop the boats’ mentality.
“People who flee, whether from Sri Lanka or other parts of the world through Indonesia, they flee for a reason. We should be welcoming them here in Australia,” Glanz said.
Solidarity is not charity for union members like Glanz. It is mutual aid between fellow workers that recognises that despite our differences, we share a common humanity and a common dignity.
Just as unionists organise across workplaces, we also organise across economic, moral and social lines. The fight for refugee rights is central.
Indefinite detention has inflicted cruel and inhumane treatment on the most vulnerable of people. Asylum seekers, including children, battle deteriorating mental health and suicide as they have waited for the Australian government to determine their fate, locked up in detention centres.
Advocates like Kashani and Glanz will not give up fighting for refugee rights anytime soon.
Unions believe that seeking refuge is a fundamental right, and the union movement has supported this right for over a century.
“It means a lot to see people here to support us. It’s not just one person fighting. It’s many, many people that are here,” Kashani said.
As union members, our actions are driven by the core conviction of solidarity. The idea that we’re more powerful when we act together and that our common human dignity is tied up with each other. If one person is disadvantaged or oppressed, then we all are.
If you want to see change, then together we can take action to drive that change.
P.S. If you’re based in Melbourne, Unionists for Refugees will be hosting a BBQ this Friday evening at Victorian Trades Hall. Check out the full details and register here.