Reclaim Australia rallies ‘hurtful’ to new migrants and refugees

Community leaders say nationwide anti-Islam rallies held on Saturday have left new arrivals feeling isolated and vulnerable Refugees and new migrants feel more isolated and vulnerable following last weekend’s Reclaim Australia rallies, community leaders said. The anti-Islam rallies on Saturday attracted hundreds of demonstrators nationwide who were protesting against halal certification, sharia law and increased Muslim migration. Counterprotests were held in several cities, in some cases eclipsing the original rallies. Edward Solo, vice president of the Federation of African Communities Councils in Australia, said the anti-Islam rallies are “hurtful”. “It is really a fearful message,” he said. Solo said many new arrivals will worry that they will be the next targets of the rallies. “It is hurtful to your efforts to rebuild your lives [which were] shattered back home,” he said. Kon Karapanagiotidis from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said that the protests build on the anti-refugee sentiment that has been stirred up by the government’s hardline border protection policies. “This is a community that feels like it is under attack, a community that feels isolated and unwelcome,” he said. “Reclaim Australia makes asylum seekers feel more under threat.” Joe Caputo, chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia, was wary of giving the protesters too much publicity, labelling them “a totally isolated fringe group that is insignificant”. He said demonstrators were “ignorant”, “misinformed” and “out of this world”, pointing to the fact that no mainstream organisations or politicians attended the rallies as evidence that they are in the minority. But chief executive of the Arab Council, Randa Kattan, warned that even small groups can be dangerous. “In terms...