In Brisbane this morning , a refugee advocate threw his shoes at Immigration Minister Peter Dutton as a symbolic protest against the Australian government’s refugee policies.
At a festival for welcoming refugees in Annerley, 33 year old David Sprigg threw his shoes at the minister as part of a long tradition of similar protest actions.
Most famously, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoe at George W Bush in 2008 as a protest against the Iraq war. But since then over 50 similar actions have happened around the world, including Peter Gray throwing his shoe at John Howard in 2010.
Mr Sprigg said he took the action to protest Australia’s human rights abuses when it comes to asylum seekers. “It is hypocritical for Peter Dutton to appear at a festival welcoming refugees when his government continues to lock up indefinitely asylum seekers who have committed no crime, and turn back boats at sea who are attempting to seek refuge in Australia.
“Not only have Mr Dutton and the Liberal Party’s “stop the boats” campaign made it abundantly clear that refugees are not welcome in Australia, but by continually exploiting this issue for political gain and using language like “queue jumpers” and “illegal arrivals” they have turned the Australian public further against refugees than they would have been.
“If Peter Dutton and the Australian government were serious about welcoming refugees, they would make a concerted effort to accept and resettle asylum seekers, instead of just turning up to a festival.”
The government’s policy of mandatory detention and offshore processing for asylum seekers have for a long time been criticised by human rights advocates. Mental health advocate and former Australian of the year Patrick McGorry described the detention centres as “mental illness factories”, while the human rights Commission earlier this year described detention centres as a “toxic environment” and called for a royal commission into detention of asylum seeker children.
More recently, Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quoted as saying there was “no way” Australia would accept Rohingyan asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Burma, while last week there were reports that Australian officials paid thousands of dollars to people smugglers to turn around boats full of asylum seekers.
Mr Sprigg said “under our obligations in the UN refugee convention and out of respect for our shared humanity, we should be accepting asylum seekers into Australia and giving them opportunities to live lives of freedom and dignity.”
“Australians actually mostly are welcoming of asylum seekers in our communities, and refugees have shown that they can contribute significantly to our country. But this is in spite, not because, of the policies and actions of the Labor and Liberal governments.”