Australia’s Mare Nostrum?

Mare Nostrum = Our Sea
– a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea

Long before the birth of nation states, human beings were constantly on the move across this planet. They did so for many reasons – cold, famine, fire, drought, war – the list is endless.

Moroccan refugees turned away from Lampedusa

In response to the refugee crisis arising from wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria the Italian government adopted a policy of Mare Nostrum. The central government gave instructions for Italian towns and cities to house refugees. The Mafia Capitale investigation revealed that the Italian Mafia profited from the migrant crisis and exploited refugees. Pope Francis thanked the Italian navy for their migrant rescue effort which prevented many drownings in the Mediterranean Sea. However it led to overpopulation on island like Lampedusa.

Humans on the move

Lampedusa is the small island south of Sicily in the Mediterranean sea and not far from North Africa

“They did not drown. They died of thirst”, the UN worker on Lampedusa told me. In the busy shipping lanes of the Mediterranean, 75 Eritrean men, women and children died of thirst in an open boat.” – Refugee rights advocate, Pamela Curr.

“The five survivors told a UN worker who cared for them that 10 ships witnessed their plight and sailed away. This is the dark side of dehumanising asylum seekers. The result is that civilised nations can avert their gaze as asylum seekers die. Maybe Australians need to recall our history in this game as our politicians begin the anti-refugee war games again.”


On 10 October 2020, I listened to a speech by a longtime refugee activist in King George Square in Brisbane. This voice of experience said that we are in the trenches, it is very hard to get the refugees out of detention. Only a small number of people had turned up to the square (see photos below).

The speaker said the refugee campaigners only had a couple of small victories including getting refugees their mobile phones back so that they could talk with their families and kids.

But that is it. Our numbers were down. He said that we’ve got no traction in getting refugees out of Kangaroo Point Prison or Mantra hotel (in Melbourne).

One response to this were calls for more militant actions.

But was this needed?

A couple of things then happened.

On 24 October 2020 a refugee tried to commit suicide because he couldn’t see his son. Mark Gillespie from Refugee Action Collective described the situation:

“The refugee has been cruelly separated from his wife and son for over three years. His family are living only 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel-prison, and need his support. By supporting the on-going imprisonment of refugees in Kangaroo Point, the Queensland government and the Queensland police are complicit with the Federal government in the torture of refugees in the Kangaroo Point and other detention centres.”

Refugee rights group call for police thug to be suspended and charged

In response about 150 people went back to Kangaroo Point Hotel Prison, and then a police officer king hit a unionist supporting refugee’s human rights. It is clear that the protestors are peaceful. But police wanted to curtail their actions at Kangaroo Point Hotel/Prison which is on a busy main thoroughfare.

Mark Gillespie: “Videos of the event clearly show Jeff being struck down by a particularly dangerous blow, what is now known as a coward’s punch, delivered by a clearly identified police officer. Specific legislation was introduced in Queensland because of the prevalence of the one-punch assaults in this state.”

“Jeff and another 150 people were attending a snap protest at the Brisbane hotel at Kangaroo Point where over 100 refugees have been detained for over a year. The protest had been called following the attempted suicide of a Somali refugee detainee at the hotel on Saturday morning (24 October).

“The Refugee Action Collective is calling for that officer to be immediately suspended from duty and charged with assault occasioning bodily harm. The police action at the Kangaroo Point hotel protest makes a mockery of any police claim to be protecting protesters. Police guilty of violence must be held to account. “We are extremely concerned at police media statements pre-empting a proper investigation by suggesting that videos do not show Jeff being deliberately assaulted by the police officer,” said Mark Gillespie from the Refugee Action Collective.

“Videos of the event clearly show Jeff being struck down by a particularly dangerous blow, what is now known as a coward’s punch, delivered by a clearly identified police officer. Specific legislation was introduced in Queensland because of the prevalence of the one-punch assaults in this state.

“Thirteen people have now died in Australia’s brutal offshore detention system and more have died onshore” said Mark Gillespie from the Refugee Action Collective.

“The Queensland government should be supporting the protests at Kangaroo Point hotel. People who have never been charged with a crime are being detained for years, families have been separated and lives are slowly being destroyed.

“It’s time to stop the cruelty and respect their internationally recognised right to come to Australia and seek asylum”.”We will keep protesting until all the refugees and people seeking asylum, on and offshore, are freed.”

Some politicians and farmers groups are calling for the refugees to be released so that they can work on farms fruit picking. Is this human kindness. I think not. It is a form of racism (Orientalism) … that basically says in exchange for letting you come on our land we will give you a hard job on low wages. You will never be allowed to own your own land.

Ian Curr
28 Oct 2020

For more information or comment call
Mark Gillespie on 0439 561 196
Refugee Action Collective Queensland RAC

One thought on “Australia’s Mare Nostrum?

  1. Shutting the gate to the US says:

    Read this article in the Australian Financial ReviewAFR
    Australia is rushing to move refugees held in offshore detention to the United States, amid growing expectations a controversial transfer deal with the Trump administration will end within weeks.

    In a development set to add pressure on Scott Morrison to take up New Zealand’s offer to resettle refugees and asylum seekers held on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea, key support providers administering the US resettlement deal are preparing to shut down their services before Christmas.

    The deal has continued under Prime Minister Scott Morrison and US President Donald Trump. Alex Ellinghausen

    Despite efforts to complete as many transfers as possible in recent months, including during the COVID-19 crisis, hundreds could miss out.

    The 2016 deal reached by Barack Obama and then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull for the transfer of up to 1250 people is among Australia’s most sensitive bilateral agreements.

    It attracted President Donald Trump’s rage in early 2017, with the newly elected Republican hitting out at the “disgusting deal” in a fiery conversation with Mr Turnbull.

    Read more @

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