Justice for Refugees WA, a network of more the 40 community organisations, faith groups and human rights agencies, is calling on Australia’s political leaders to abandon the current harsh and unjust policies of detention, uncertainty and limbo, and to instead provide permanent protection for people seeking safety. Instead of prolonging the despair of people seeking asylum, the group calls for political leaders to provide protection, security and freedom, through a fair and just process.
Over several years the group has coordinated the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees along with groups around the country. This year, as a precautionary approach in light of COVID-19, the group hosted a live webinar event at the Uniting Church in the City Hall, Perth, which was watched by small groups gathered in community centres and homes across the state.
Farhad Bandesh, a Kurdish asylum seeker who was recently released from a Melbourne immigration facility following eight years of detention, called into the Perth Palm Sunday event to share his experience. Mr Bandesh said, “I can’t describe how good it feels to be out of detention – freedom is beautiful. We just need everyone to be free.”
Joanna Josephs, General Manager of the Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD) was a guest speaker at the event. CARAD provides essential case management, emergency relief and volunteer support for people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds in Perth, and they are concerned at the increasing demands on their service.
Ms Josephs explained that it was a particularly challenging time at the moment, saying, “We have been experiencing a significant increase in need among our client community.
“There continues to be drastic cuts to the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) program. In WA, out of the thousands of people seeking asylum living in our community, only 78 people remain eligible to receive just $36 per day from Centrelink (through the SRSS program). All of the other people seeking asylum are completely ineligible for any form of Centrelink.
“The federal government must not continue to deliberately force people seeking asylum to live in the community with no financial support while they take years to process asylum claims.”
Associate Professor Caroline Fleay, Co-Director of the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University added her voice to the call for a humane response to people seeking safety saying, “Let’s be guided by compassion in how we respond to others. Instead of limbo and uncertainty, we can offer freedom and a future where people seeking asylum and their families are safe.
“The cruelty of immigration detention, forcing people to live on temporary visas indefinitely, and refusing to reunite families, none of these are humane solutions for those who have turned to us for refuge.”
Susy Thomas, Moderator of the Uniting Church Western Australia said, “Australians have had enough of the cruel marginalisation of refugees. People want to see some real change in the way people seeking asylum are treated. Indefinite detention and temporary visas create terrible anguish that we cannot, with good conscience, continue to allow.”
Refugees and people seeking asylum currently languish in either the limbo of detention or the uncertainty of temporary protection visas. People in Papua New Guinea and Nauru are approaching their eighth year in limbo.
Approximately 30,000 refugees in Australia (the “legacy caseload”) await visa grants or live on temporary visas with their futures shrouded in uncertainty and limbo. Many families are separated with no hope for reunification due to the cruelty of current policy, and live in constant fear of deportation to danger.
For further information contact the UCWA Social Justice team at [email protected].
To watch the livestream of the 2021 Justice for Refugees event, click here.