Hundreds of protesters in Brisbane have urged the prime minister to stop the looming deportation of scores of asylum seeker families in Nauru.
Holding signs plastered with slogans like “let them stay” and “shut Nauru and Manus now”, they demanded Malcolm Turnbull ensure the asylum seekers are resettled in Australia.
The protest, outside Brisbane’s immigration office on Friday, follows a High Court ruling that paves the way for 267 people brought to Australia for medical treatment, including babies, to be deported to Nauru.
The Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Very Reverend Dr Peter Catt, and Greens Senator Larissa Waters both called for Mr Turnbull to intervene to stop the children and their families being deported.
“Just because the High Court says it’s legal does not mean it’s moral,” Senator Waters said, to rounds of cheers and applause.
Dr Catt was given a warm reception at the rally where he spoke of the support he’d received since offering to protect those facing deportation.
He’s warned authorities they’ll have to bash down church doors and arrest clergy to deport those who take up the church’s offer of sanctuary.
“I have had hundreds of emails, of which only six are negative,” he said.
“As soon as it hit the press, a gentleman walked into the cathedral office and handed over an envelope with $1000 in it for the refugees.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has insisted the government won’t be dragging asylum seekers out of churches to cart them back to Nauru.
He said most were people accompanying ill family members and the government would be looking to send them back to Nauru or their country of origin once medical assistance was completed.
Mr Dutton has also stressed the importance of the government’s border protection policies in stopping the boats and drownings at sea, emphasising the deterrence factor.
But Senator Water said the asylum seekers shouldn’t be sent back to the “prison island hellhole”.
“Surely there has to be a better choice between child abuse and turning back boats on the high seas,” she said.
She also rejected claims some asylum seekers could be future terrorists, saying such assertions inflamed tensions when the best way to prevent extremism was to care for people.