MORE than 50 people gathered on the weekend to protest the offshore detention of asylum seekers.
The protest was held in the Beardy Street Mall and onlookers were invited to remove a cardboard figure from confinement, write a message of support and place the figure in a table surrounded by wattle to represent freedom.
Rural Australians for Refugees member Bar Finch said the protest was designed to provoke empathy in ordinary people.
"It was extremely moving, people were quite upset by it.
A few children were there and they wrote on the cards, the cut outs were of men, children and women holding children and it was interesting that all the children were pulled out first," she said.
In July there were 1244 people in immigration detention in the Republic of Nauru and the Manus Province in Papua New Guinea.
Ms Finch said that the way asylum seekers are treated in offshore detention is morally wrong.
"It's really obvious to those of us in the Rural Australians for Refugees that it's wrong, it's just morally wrong what we're doing up there.
It is Australia doing it on our behalf, the United Nations has said it's torture, Amnesty International has said it's torture.
Nobody is pulling fingernails out and we know that, but for an ordinary person they haven't committed any crime, they aren't in jail because they've been found guilty, it's cruel and it's torture," she said.
Ms Finch said the cost to provide assistance to asylum seekers to settle in Australia is three per cent of the cost to detain them in offshore processing centres.
"They're not criminals, they're ordinary people fleeing disaster.
I personally could not do that to someone and I am part of Australia, and if Australia is doing that then I'm reponsible.
We just hope that we can strike a cord in people's hearts," she said.
Demonstrations similar to the one held in the mall were undertaken in cities across Australia.
The goal of the group is to close offshore detention centres for good.
“Our goal is to close those offshore camps, Australia has to be responsible for people who arrive here.
John Howard is quite right, we will decide who will come to this country and if we’re the sort of country I would like us to be, we would decide to take more refugees and asylum seekers.
Of course we have to decide, we don’t just want random people lobbing in, it’s really obvious but they make it seem like people like us think that anybody can come in at anytime, this is not the case, you have to have sensible systems,” Ms Finch said.
The group has been active in Armidale since 2001.
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