CAPSA Newsletter April 2022
Dear CAPSA community,
We hope you had a safe and happy April.
CAPSA welcomed the release of the estimated 44 refugees from onshore immigration detention centres around Australia, including Melbourne’s infamous Park Hotel, over the 2nd, 7th and 8th April. You can read our media release about this here.
In the shadow of this happy news, just last week 12 individuals were transferred without notice from Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) to be detained offshore on Christmas Island.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison also called the Federal Election for 21st May 2022. Already, issues affecting refugees and people seeking asylum have featured as points of discussion for political parties and potential candidates.
In the remainder of this newsletter you’ll find updates on other news from the month of April, a list of upcoming events and actions, and recommended reading, watching and listening.
The CAPSA team
Refugees released from detention
- In early April the remaining men imprisoned in Melbourne’s Park Hotel were released into the community. Over the 2nd, 7th and 8th April, it is estimated that 44 others have also been released from detention centres around Australia. Advocates continue to implore the Federal Government to release the remaining estimated six people who were transferred from offshore detention for medical reasons.
- Many who were released from the Park Hotel had spent over nine years in arbitrary immigration detention. They have reported to the media that they are looking forward to starting their ‘new life’. Some will be provided with a Final Departure Bridging Visa, with temporary transitional support, while others will be released into community detention.
- Some of the released men were provided with a one-off payment and up to three-weeks of temporary accommodation – then they are expected to support themselves. For many, the ability to work and earn an income is compounded by ongoing physical and mental issues; many of which have been exacerbated by their prolonged detention.
- Former Park Hotel detainee Mehdi has expressed his concern that these decisions were politically motivated as we approach a Federal Election – instead of being motivated by human rights obligations. Mehdi and his cousin Adnan were only 15 years old when they were first detained within Australia’s offshore processing system. They were recently released, aged 24 and almost ten years later, resettled and starting a new life in Minneapolis, USA.
Immigration detainees forcibly transferred to Christmas Island
- The Australian Border Force has confirmed that 12 individuals were transferred last week from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) to Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre.
- In a media release published last Tuesday, the ASRC noted they had been informed that the group were handcuffed without notice, loaded onto a bus and not told where they were being taken.
- Reports have identified that most of the individuals transferred have had their visas revoked under section 501 of the Migration Act – a section under which the minister may cancel a visa on character grounds.
- Protesters attempted to blockade the removal of detainees from MITA, going head to head with both Victorian Police and the Australian Federal Police. Senator Lidia Thorpe attended the protests, and has called on the Police to explain their violence.
- Advocates have expressed their concern that Christmas Island is being used, yet again, for immigration detention. A 2021 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission concluded that Christmas Island is not an appropriate place for an immigration detention facility. The Commissioner of the time noted that “Christmas Island is remote, with limited access to facilities and services, especially for people who are vulnerable or have been detained for long periods of time.”
Hazara students and worshippers killed and the Taliban backtracks on girls’ schools commitment
- The Action for Afghanistan campaign has urged the Federal Government to do more to support the Hazara community following a recent bombing attack at a Shia Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, and targeted killings at Hazara schools in western Kabul.
- Reports from the community estimate that over 200 students and 118 worshipers, a majority of which identify as Hazara, have been either killed or injured as a result of these attacks.
- In an impassioned plea released in the Guardian this month, a local Kabul school teacher implored western nations to do more to ensure that women and girls in Afghanistan are able to safely access schooling and education.
Federal Election campaigning begins
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the 2022 Federal Election will be held on 21st May – just over three weeks away. As campaigning is well-underway, advocates for refugees and people seeking asylum are maintaining their efforts to ensure that issues affecting this cohort are not overlooked.
- The Refugee Council of Australia has put together a number of informative documents to help guide the Australia community on where the key political parties stand on these issues, as well as the key reforms the refugee sector is seeking from the incoming Government:
- The UNSW Kaldor Centre has released an updated version of their well-researched policy document ahead of the Federal election: Principles for Australian Refugee Policy.
- In their most recent edition of Just Now, Catholic Religious Australia has developed a values-based voting guide informed by Catholic Social Principles. Voting for Justice provides an overview of key justice issues in our society, and includes information relevant to how you might vote.
- The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has released their ‘Election Statement: Towards a Better Kind of Politics’, which outlines key issues of focus for this year’s election. Archbishop Mark Coleridge highlights in this statement that ‘we are blessed in Australia to be able to participate in and help shape the civic life of our country’ – this document encourages us to use our voice when we vote, for good.
CAPSA joins faith leaders in urging politicians to provide permanency to those on TPVs
- Co-chairs of CAPSA, Julie Edwards (CEO of Jesuit Social Services) and Tamara Domicelj (Country Director of JRS Australia) have signed a statement, alongside 50 other multi-faith leaders, that calls on Australian politicians to provide permanency and ongoing support to those who have been languishing on Temporary Protection Visas.
- This statement has been sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, as well as all other Federal candidates across Australia.
- In support of this ongoing advocacy, you can send an email to your local candidates to inform them that you support a compassionate, fair and just approach towards refugees and people seeking asylum. Check out the website, send an email and find resources to take action here.
Other News and Updates
- On Palm Sunday, hundreds of people joined rallies around Australia in support of refugee rights. The rallies were an opportunity for members of the community to stand in solidary with people facing persecution and displacement globally. Representatives from the CAPSA team attended Melbourne’s rally to call for an urgent and equitable scale-up to Australia’s humanitarian program. Pictured above is Andrew Hamilton SJ, Jesuit Social Services CEO and CAPSA co-Chair Julie Edwards and CAPSA supporter Vesela.
- The Australian Federal Government has withdrawn the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2021 from Parliament, citing ‘other priorities’ as a key reason for this decision. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has said that the Federal Government will continue to pursue these changes.
- The Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee has released their final report on Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan. Organisations such as the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) have welcomed the Committee’s recommendations, and have called on the Federal Government to implement these immediately.
- Following the long-awaited acceptance of the New Zealand resettlement deal, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has stated that Australia would never allow resettled refugees back in the country – even as travelers. The Minister referenced that the Federal Government did not want to allow ‘back door’ access to Australian resettlement.
- The Victorian Budget was released last week, with $5.7 million in 2022-23 allocated towards improving health access and outcomes for refugees and people seeking asylum to expand services, address gaps in safety net supports and deliver culturally appropriate healthcare to newly arrived and at-risk refugees.
- The UK Government has received wide-spread criticism for their recent proposal to resettle migrants and people seeking asylum in Rwanda for processing. In following the inhumane policy footsteps of Australia’s offshore processing system, the Government hopes to deter people from making the treacherous journey by boat across the English Chanel.
- Just under sixteen million people inside Ukraine are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, reports the United Nations – over five million have fled the country and just over seven million have been internally displaced. United Nations Secretary General Antόnio Guterrres has written separately to request meetings with the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine.
Upcoming Events and Actions
- The Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law is holding a livestream discussion between journalist David Marr, with Kaldor Centre Director Jane McAdam AO, author Abbas Nazari and journalist Ben Doherty. ‘Accounting for Australia’s refugee policy – from the Tampa to tomorrow’ will be livestreamed on Tuesday 24 May at 6:30pm AEST. Register here.
- UNICEF Australia has launched their #CookForUkraine campaign, and are encouraging people to host friends and family for a meal – whether that be brunch, dinner or afternoon tea – to raise funds for UNICEF’s work assisting Ukrainian refugees affected by the ongoing conflict. You can register your event and starting fundraising here.
- Ahead of the Federal election, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has launched an online pledge that you can add your name to here. This election, they’re calling on the Australian community to come together in strength and commit to saying ‘yes’ to refugees and people seeking asylum.
- In reflecting on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, Andrew Hamilton SJ has written a powerful and contemplative piece for the CAPSA website, which you can read here.
- Kerry Murphy has written an insightful piece for Eureka Street explaining the complexity of protection in Australia for people fleeing Afghanistan and Ukraine. You can read it here.
- Ahead of this year’s Refugee Week (Sunday 19th to Saturday 25th June), the Refugee Council of Australia has collated a list of films and documentaries telling a myriad of stories of refugees and people seeking asylum from around the world.
- Road to Refuge has created an online storytelling platform called Shifting the Story, that gives six people with refugee backgrounds an opportunity to articulate their experiences of COVID-19 and imagine what a post-pandemic world might look like. Through video, writing and song, six stories of resilience, determination and hope are told.