Refugee support strong, despite weekend protests

Latrobe Valley residents continue to show compassion for asylum seekers despite massive anti-Muslim protests in cities and regional areas over the weekend.

Gippsland Multicultural Services director Lisa Sinha said her office was sending a ute fully-loaded with donated goods to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Footscray on 17 April as part of an ongoing program to support refugees.

“In the face of negative publicity about asylum seekers and about refugees and those from diverse faiths, the generosity of the community shown to date is the evidence of what our community is really all about,” Ms Sinha said.

“Latrobe Valley is a caring, accepting and understanding community.”

GMS began receiving donated goods for ASRC in February.

People can drop off food items and other materials at their office on Buckley Street, Morwell from 9am to 5pm, Mondays through Fridays.

“GMS is proud to play a key role in the community in showing compassion towards those who have fled persecution and have not yet found safety and belonging in our country,” Ms Sinha said.

She said she was happy with the community’s response to the call for asylum seeker support, despite negative reactions from some people.

A group called Reclaim Australia who described themselves as “patriotic Australians”, staged anti-Muslim protests in 16 sites at the weekend surprising authorities as some of them clashed with anti-racist marchers.

The group’s website said Reclaim Australia wanted to make the imposition of Sharia Law illegal in all states and territories, ban the wearing of the burqa, illegalise halal certification, ban the teaching of Islam in government schools, cancel the citizenship and deport people involved with female genital mutilation, and stop Centrelink from recognising polygamy and give benefits only to a Muslim man’s first marriage, among others.

The Express had sought local Muslim groups for comment about the protests, but was told they would not give any reaction at the moment.