Lismore City Councillor Eddie Lloyd (with microphone) joins refugee advocates and other members of Council in a vigil outside MP Kevin Hogan's office.
Lismore City Councillor Eddie Lloyd (with microphone) joins refugee advocates and other members of Council in a vigil outside MP Kevin Hogan's office. Courtesy of R Poole

Lismore welcomes refugees: Council

LISMORE welcomes refugees and councillors will likely write to the federal government on the city's behalf to say they disagree with current refugee policy, said Cr Eddie Lloyd this week.

"Everyone deserves to live in a safe home," said Cr Lloyd, who was confident Mayor Isaac Smith and fellow councillors shared her views.

"Thousands are being evacuated from Aleppo, there are children begging to be saved. How can we turn away from that?

"We shouldn't be building walls and stopping boats.

"They're going to add to the social fabric of our community, they're going to add to the economy."

Cr Lloyd and Councillors Ellie Bird, Adam Guise and Vanessa Ekins joined a vigil on Thursday evening for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

Amnesty International Lismore branch coordinator, Anne Tuart, said concerned residents of the Northern Rivers had met weekly outside Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan's office for 44 weeks.

"We're a friendly bunch that stands down there each week, we get loads of support from honking cars and the like," Ms Tuart said.

"We're standing there because the government's refugee policy is not in our name.

"After so many weeks he now knows we're not going to go away and he actually asked if he could talk to us at the end of February."

Mr Hogan confirmed he had met with the advocates twice in 2016 and planned to meet again in the new year.

"I certainly support the right for all people in our community to speak out on what they want to speak out on," he said.

"No one likes detention centres and we've closed 17 of the 19 we had, we have two to go: Manus and Nauru."

But Ms Tuart said she had written to Mr Hogan asking about five other detention centres thought to still be in operation: Maribyrnong (Victoria), Villawood (NSW), Perth, Christmas Island and Yongah Hill (Western Australia).

Considering Nauru and Manus, Ms Tuart said it was 'really depressing and upsetting to think that [asylum seekers were] stuck on those islands".

"Nauru is a 24sqm island with a population of 10,000.

"It's only four degrees south of the equator so it's constantly hot and humid, people have mold growing inside their tents."

She said the Nauran economy was once based on phosphate mining but when the industry declined the island state became a tax haven for money laundering before "the international community closed that down".

"They're not a country of people with very high morals," she said.

"95% of people work for the government.

"Their own national bank is insolvent, Westpac pulled out the year before last, the only bank there now is Bendigo Bank and their currency is the Australian dollar."

Most people who spoke to Ms Tuart and others at the weekly vigil were supportive, she said and after tallying the number of cars to toot hoons as they passed, she noticed it doubled when the government announced plans to prevent asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru from ever coming to Australia.

"We probably get one person giving us the finger a fortnight.

"We've heard people yell out 'they'll take our jobs' but if there were not enough jobs to go around why do we need 457 visa holders?"

The group's final vigil for 2016 included street theatre featuring a boat of asylum seekers and a border protection official.

"I always love taking part in these kind of events, to walk through the streets, to get everyone to stop and think how lucky we are in Australia," said Cr Lloyd.

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