It is going to be a busy year! With the ever-worsening circumstances of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia, especially those being held in detention, and the possibility of a federal election later in the year, there is an urgent need for a strong community voice demanding change to refugee policy. Given the reduced opportunities for public demonstrations/protests under COVID restrictions, our letter writing is more important than ever.
Through the Australian Refugee Advocacy Network (ARAN), I meet via Zoom with representatives of other letter writing groups around the country on the 2nd Wednesday of each month. We are trying to coordinate our letter writing efforts on a national basis, and see this as being especially important in order to have the greatest impact politically this year. Each month, we will agree on priority topics for our letters for that month, and key points to be made. I will endeavor to write to you in the following few days each month to pass on that information.
Recent weeks have seen around 70 people released from onshore immigration detention. The Government is responding to pressure from the Australian community, and our letter writing is a part of that pressure. These releases are a step in the right direction, but the Morrison Government is still holding over 100 refugees and people seeking asylum in immigration detention centres across Australia, and around 260 in PNG and Nauru. Over 30,000 refugees and people seeking asylum in the Australian community are living in limbo, either on temporary visas or still waiting for their asylum claims to be determined. So there is still much to be done!
Priority actions for this month
1. Sign a Time for a Home petition
#TimeForAHome campaign is a joint effort of over 100 community organisations calling for the release and resettlement of the remaining refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia’s immigration detention system, both onshore and offshore. The campaign intends to hand over a petition and hold a press conference in Parliament House next Wednesday,17 February. The petition calls on the government to immediately release people seeking asylum and refugees from immigration detention, and to commit to their resettlement in a safe, permanent home by World Refugee Day, 20 June 2021.
There are several petitions be as part of this campaign, through various participating organisations. Please sign one of them now,and then share any of the links below through your networks. The petitions will be aggregated before being presented to Parliament.
2. Ring Peter Dutton
Ring Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and demand that he release all the refugees who are still held in immigration detention, both onshore and offshore. See Amnesty website for details and talking points for your phone call.
3. People are being released from detention into destitution.
Write to the PM, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston, and your local MP (see attached list for contact details) calling on the Government to continue to provide support to the people being released from detention while arrangements are made for their permanent resettlement.
Of course it is a good thing that people are – after nearly 8 years – finally being freed from locked detention, but it is not right that the Australian Government denies its responsibility for these people and their condition, and just dumps them into poverty. The people being released from detention are being given a 6 month Bridging Visa E. The conditions of this type of visa vary, but generally it allows work rights, and access to Medicare, but no housing or social security support. The Government must ensure that all people in our community have access to a financial safety net if they need it.
Points to make:
- These people have been in detention for years, with no opportunities to maintain work skills.
- They have few, if any, support networks in the Australian community.
- Their opportunities for gaining employment are extremely limited in the current economic environment
- How are they expected to support themselves?
- The Australian government is responsible for them.
- They should have access to the same financial safety net as anyone living in the community.
4. The Biloela family
There is strong and growing public opposition to the continuing detention of the Sri Lankan family on Christmas Island. The Canberra Times has been giving the story considerable coverage lately. The following letter was in Friday’s Canberra Times Letters to Editor. It’s a good example of how short and simple letters can be effective and get published.
It would be nice if Craig Kelly could put his misplaced energies into badgering Morrison and Dutton to release the Biloela family from Christmas Island. We have no right to tick off the Chinese with their treatment of the Uighur while these four people languish there.
Canberra Times 12/02 Be Useful Craig by Gail McAlpine, Griffith
Thank you for your ongoing support for this campaign! Please do whatever you can, whenever you can, and get active and sign/ring/write!
Please feel free to circulate this widely throughout your networks.