April 2020 Bulletin
As we all continue to grapple with the huge impact of COVID-19 on our society, it’s imperative that no person is left without assistance, including people seeking asylum.
We continue to take hope from the many individuals and communities whose advocacy for refugees and people seeking asylum has, due to physical distancing requirements, now shifted online. The recent Palm Sunday online event (featured below) was a great example.
The Federal Government has outlined a welcome range of support measures for Australian citizens and permanent visa holders, including a higher level of income support for people without work. But people seeking asylum on bridging visas and other temporary visa holders do not have access to this safety net. State and territory governments have announced their own emergency relief packages, some of which include support for people on temporary visas.
Alongside dozens of other civil society groups, CAPSA has signed on to an open letter, led by the Refugee Council of Australia, calling on the Prime Minister to ensure people seeking asylum, refugees and other vulnerable groups are included in COVID-19 responses. You can read the full letter here.
A group of Australian Catholic leaders has also written to the Prime Minister, outlining concerns for temporary visa holders and vulnerable refugees and people seeking asylum.
Nobody is unaffected by this public health and economic crisis, and nobody should be left behind.
The CAPSA team
We believe that together WE CAN make a difference, starting with small acts of kindness and hospitality and becoming a collective voice demanding more compassionate asylum seeker policies.
Palm Sunday online actions
Given the COVID-19 outbreak, this year’s Palm Sunday event moved online. A number of speakers recorded video messages, people shared photos on social media in solidarity with refugees and people seeking asylum, and several petitions were circulated calling for the release of people in immigration detention.
Sister Brigid Arthur spoke about the history of Palm Sunday, the uncertainty of these times and the importance of building a more caring community.
“We remember that it’s in times like these that we will look back and know what values actually held us together as a community.” – Sister Brigid Arthur.
Moz, a refugee transferred from Manus Island to Australia under the Medevac Law and now detained in the Mantra Hotel in Preston, Victoria, spoke of fears for his health in detention amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“We need your help. We need you to raise your voices and speak out to ask for our immediate release into the community. Our lives depend on it.” – Moz.
The Kaldor Centre has a dedicated page, COVID-19 Watch, with expert analysis on the impact of COVID-19 on displaced persons around the world.
The Refugee Council of Australia has compiled a fact sheet detailing who is eligible for the government’s COVID-19 economic support measures.
SBS has launched a multilingual online resource with information about COVID-19 in 63 different languages.
There have been growing concerns for people in immigration detention who are at heightened risk during this COVID-19 crisis. According to the most recent data available, there are 1,440 people in immigration detention facilities across Australia.
The Australian Human Rights Commissioner has called for the release of vulnerable people from detention, as has the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control, the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and over 1,000 academics and health professionals. The Department of Health’s official advice acknowledges that people in detention facilities are among those most at risk.
As this article in The Conversation points out, the current situation in Singapore, where case numbers have soared through spread in cramped migrant worker dormitories, “shows what can happen when measures are not taken to protect everyone.” In countries such as Spain, Belgium and the UK, some people in immigration detention have been released into the community.
The Australian Government is yet to move on releasing people from immigration detention, but concerted advocacy continues. The Human Rights Law Centre is leading a legal challengelaunched in the High Court on behalf of a person in immigration detention relating to COVID-19.
Other recommended reading
- The Guardian – Asylum seekers slip through Australia’s coronavirus safety net – photo essay
- NGO coalition – Australia’s Human Rights Scorecard: Australia’s 2020 United Nations UPR NGO Coalition Report
- Jesuit Social Services – In times of crisis, what can we learn from refugees?
- Nature – ‘Distancing is impossible’: refugee camps race to avert coronavirus catastrophe
- Kaldor Centre – 5 Questions about COVID-19 and people with temporary protection
- Lowy Institute – Covid-19: Refugees at risk