Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Australia to call on the federal government not to send asylum seekers back to Nauru Island. The protests come following a High Court ruling in February that declared Australia's offshore detention at Nauru and Manus Island is legal.
On 20 March nationwide protests took place in the country as part of a national campaign demanding that 267 asylum seekers not be send back to Nauru or Manus Island. Protesters also called for asylum seekers who are already on the islands to have their claims processed in Australia.
Chris Breen from the Refugee Advocacy Network, who was responsible for organising the Melbourne rally, told the Guardian: "We are going to keep coming out until Manus and Nauru are shut. There has been a heartening response to the Let Them Stay campaign… Public opinion is beginning to shift and we think we will get Manus and Nauru closed."
Protests were organised in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin and Canberra on Palm Sunday. Organisers said that more than 50,000 people across the country had showed up for the Welcome Refugees rallies, which is urging the government to provide asylum seekers with compassionate treatment.
The protests come as the High Court ruled that 267 asylum seekers who had been brought to Australia for medical treatment can now be returned to Nauru. A paediatrician who was attending the protests in Sydney explained that he went to Nauru in 2014 to treat sick children in detention and was shocked at the conditions.
Speaking to ABC News from the scene of the protest, Dr David Isaacs said: "I was horrified by what I witnessed there. This is not a question of human rights, it's a question of human decency. If you were fleeing from oppression and in fear of your life and your children's lives, what would you want done to you? How would you want to be treated? Who will speak out for these people hidden away there?"
Thousands also took to social media to post images and messages of solidarity under the hashtag 'Let Them Stay'.