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People Rallies in Australia after Proposal to house Refugees locally drew People both For and Against the Measure

Pro-refugee supporters, part of the group "Welcome to Eltham," carried colorful signs that read “Eltham says yes to refugees”

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FILE - Protestors against asylum seekers being deported, gather for a rally in Sydney, Australia, Feb. 4, 2016. VOA
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November 5, 2016: Hundreds of people rallied in Melbourne, Australia, on Saturday after a proposal to house refugees locally drew people both for and against the measure.

Protesters belonging to anti-Islam groups said they were against a plan to settle 120 refugees from Syria and Iraq at a senior housing facility in the Eltham neighbourhood.

Anti-immigration demonstrators carried Australian flags and marched near the Eltham’s Andrew Park. Police presence kept groups separated to avoid clashes.

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Pro-refugee supporters, part of the group “Welcome to Eltham,” carried colourful signs that read “Eltham says yes to refugees.”

“Most people sort of, keep to themselves. A lot of them are in their eighties and nineties and yes, they just keep to themselves. They are a bit concerned about it but they will just wait and see,” John Conroy, resident of Saint Vincent’s Care Services, said.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that locals were discussing the idea to settle refugees in the St. Vincent’s facility, but mostly they were not happy that people from other areas were flooding to Eltham to demonstrate.

Australia has a tough immigration policy and asylum-seekers trying to reach the continent are sent to camps on Nauru or Papua New Guinea, where their status as refugees are either accepted or rejected.

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Protesters react as they hold placards and listen to speakers during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, Oct. 19, 2015. VOA
Protesters react as they hold placards and listen to speakers during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, Oct. 19, 2015. VOA

In 2015, the Australian government announced a one-time proposal to accept 12,000 refugees who were running away from areas of conflict such as Iraq and Syria.

But last week, officials announced a plan to permanently ban asylum seekers who try to reach the continent by boat from entering under any visa category.

Meanwhile in Sydney others decided to rally for the closing of detention centers—places that have been heavily criticized by human rights groups.

“The detention centers are no suitable environments for the health of all detainees, but the effects on children are far worse,” Brian Owler, president of the Australian Medical Association, said in a statement.

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According to immigration figures as of August 31, there are close to 1,589 asylum-seekers among them 1,382 men, 114 women and 93 children being held on Manus Island and Nauru.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the government is maintaining a dialogue with other countries, such as the Philippines, to settle refugees. (VOA)

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Australian government to find humane solutions for refugees in Manus Island

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FILE - An undated image released Nov. 13, 2017, shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. (Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via Reuters)
FILE - An undated image released Nov. 13, 2017, shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. (Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via Reuters). VOA

The U.N. refugee agency is calling on the Australian government to find humane solutions for hundreds of refugees it has abandoned in a precarious situation on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

UNHCR accuses the Australian government of shirking its responsibilities to care for and protect some 800 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

It says the situation has become more precarious for the refugees since the government closed its so-called offshore processing facility at the end of October. Over the past four weeks, it notes, refugees who were moved to three new accommodation sites have been attacked several times. The worst case involved three people armed with machetes and an axe.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, says local hostility and resentment against the refugees is high and growing. She told VOA the Australian authorities must resolve this critical situation.

“We are talking here about people who have suffered extreme trauma and now are feeling so insecure in these places where they are staying. There are many victims of torture. People who have been deeply traumatized have been detained, having no idea what is going to happen next to them. I think this mental issue, this psychological issue is a major one,” Pouilly said.

A recent medical report commissioned by UNHCR finds the cumulative effect of uncertainty about their future is causing a deterioration in the mental and physical health of the refugees.

It warns cessation of services, substandard living and hygiene conditions and inadequate medical care are increasing violence and self-harm among the refugees. (VOA)