Australian Open

Refugee protest at Oz Open final

2015-02-01 18:36
A political protester is taken away from Rod Laver Arena by a security guard (AP)

Melbourne - Two activists were arrested on Sunday after invading centre court during the Australian Open men's final, unfurling a banner protesting against the treatment of refugees.

Security officials quickly encircled Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray when the women jumped on court during a changeover in the second set with the Serbian world No 1 leading 7-6 (7/5), 4-3. He went on to win in four sets.

A white banner draped over advertising hoardings on the side of the court on Rod Laver Arena read"Australia Open for Refugees #shutdownmanus."

The two were taken from the court by security officials with at least four others, wearing Australia Open Refugee t-shirts, led from the grandstands before play resumed after five minutes.

Tournament organisers later said the pair were arrested after causing "minimal disruption" although it was not clear whether they had been charged with any offence.

Several dignitaries were in the crowd, including tennis legends Margaret Court and Rod Laver and Australian Hollywood stars Toni Collette and Eric Bana.

Australia has adopted a hardline policy against asylum-seekers arriving by boat, which has frequently sparked criticism.

Since July 2013 the government has sent boatpeople to camps on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island and Nauru in the Pacific.

They are denied resettlement in Australia even if they are found to be genuine refugees.

The policy is designed to stop the flow of boatpeople heading to Australia, who had been arriving almost daily in often unsafe wooden fishing vessels, with hundreds drowning en route.

Earlier this month, hundreds of asylum-seekers angry at their living conditions on Manus Island and the possibility of being permanently resettled in the Pacific nation went on hunger strike.

Refugee advocates claimed several of them swallowed razor blades and washing powder before the protest was broken after several days.

The group who organised the action, called Australia Open for Refugees, said they did it in solidarity with the recent protests on Manus Island.

"We have created this international media spectacle today to expose the torture, abuse, and horrific conditions that are being perpetrated on Manus Island," the group said in a statement.

"We will not be silent. We are drawing a line with this issue. If we allow this to happen, there is no end to what this government is capable of."

The government was not immediately available for comment.


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