Five Reasons … for refugee solidarity

Union Aid Abroad APHEDA Executive Officer Kate Lee reflects on the incredible #LetThemStay mobilisation in support of the doctors and hospital staff in Brisbane who refused to discharge Baby Asha back to detention – and outlines five reasons why supporting refugees is union business:


  1. We organise, we fight for rights. As unionists, that’s what we do. We stand for peace, rights and respect at work and a life without violence, poverty or discrimination. Together, we organise to demand these rights for all people, including those seeking asylum from violence and war, no matter where they live, either ‘here’ at home or ‘there’, internationally. As unionists, we are part of the biggest global movement of organised people in the world, we’ve got the power make a world that says ‘Enough already!’.
Ros McLennan QCU leading the way in Brisbane (Photo via Australian Unions)
  1. Social justice is union business. And mobilising and organising about social justice matters to members and potential members. Being active in social justice campaigns that engage broad sections of our community offer us great opportunities to build our movement in numbers and power. There are lots of potential members who see it as our movement’s role to take a lead in campaigns like #LetThemStay and when we do we have a great opportunity to invite people to join. Making us even stronger.


  1. We don’t let the 1% divide us. They like to try that on regularly. We know their game; divide us so we fight amongst ourselves – ‘watch out for those Muslims’, ‘those migrants are taking your jobs’, ‘black kids, they’re the problem’, ‘the union members are causing trouble’, ‘refugees are taking the hospital bed of another sick kid’- and back us into our small corners so we can’t organise to push back.


  1. We are just plain lucky. It was only an accident of birth that meant it wasn’t us running from a war in Syria. Let’s face, that’s the reality, we’re really lucky. It could be our families, our kids who face deportation to Nauru or our kids drowning on a beach in Turkey. Unionists stand together to support those who can’t stand up on their own.


  1. We have to lift the floor for everyone, for a higher ceiling. It’s also called self-interest.  We fought for rights at work and social protections like Medicare and public education for everyone, not just a few. We get individual direct benefits, but it’s also better for us all too, because when we have to defend our rights (like defending Medicare now!), there are less ‘outsiders’ saying they’re missing out. When we organise migrant and refugee workers at our workplaces being exploited on poverty wages, we protect our wages and conditions by lifting the floor.

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