CAPSA Newsletter February 2022
Dear CAPSA Community,
We would like to acknowledge that the events occurring in Ukraine over the past weeks have been extremely concerning.
As an alliance working to advocate for the humane and fair treatment of those who seek safety in Australia, we are deeply concerned for the people of Ukraine and all those impacted by war and displacement, including Afghan refugees.
We hope that during this difficult time, both in Australia and abroad, you remain safe, healthy and well.
The CAPSA team
UNHCR estimates over 2 million refugees flee Ukraine as Russian invasion intensifies
- The United Nations has estimated that since Thursday 24th February, over 2 million Ukrainian refugees have fled in an attempt to escape Russia’s invasion, with hundreds of thousands facing internal displacement. If fighting continues to escalate, the UN fears over four million people will be displaced.
- Aljazeera has developed an informative map, indicating which borders refugees are crossing. It estimates that in a 15-hour time period, 45,200 refugees crossed the border to Poland where people are waiting up to 40 hours in car lines of over 14 kilometres. Ukrainians are also fleeing to neighbouring states Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova.
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that, despite recently pledging to provide non-lethal aid, the Federal Government will now supply and fund weaponry to Ukrainian forces. When attending St Andrew’s Ukrainian Church on Sunday, the Prime Minister informed the media that Australia is open to accepting Ukrainian refugees who seek ‘either temporary or long-term sanctuary’. However, he stated there was “plenty of scope” within existing humanitarian visa numbers given the reduction of immigration over the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Both New South Wales and Victorian Premiers, Daniel Perrottet and Daniel Andrews, have expressed their willingness to settle and support refugees fleeing the current crisis in Ukraine.
Action for Afghanistan: six months since the fall of Kabul
- Tuesday 15th February marked six months since the fall of Kabul. At the time of writing this newsletter, it has been 197 days of ongoing conflict and devastation for the people of Afghanistan under the Taliban.
- Reports continue to emerge of high levels of malnutrition, due in part to the economic crisis and persistent drought across the country.
- At the beginning of this month, the Diaspora Advocacy Network for Afghanistan organised a peaceful rally outside Parliament House advocating for the permanent protection of Afghan refugees living on temporary visas in Australia. Many of these refugees have been here for over 10-years. The Network called on the Federal Government to end this ongoing limbo by providing pathways to permanency.
- On the eve of the six-month anniversary of the fall of Kabul, a delegation of leaders from the faith, veteran and Afghanistan diaspora communities met together with Federal Members of Parliament, including Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke, to advocate that the Federal Government provide an additional intake of 20,000 humanitarian places for those fleeing Afghanistan. Dr Tim McKenna, member of the CAPSA Advisory Group and Chair of the Vincentian Refugee Network, represented both CAPSA and the St Vincent de Paul Society as a delegate in this group.
Strengthening character test bill passes the Lower House of Parliament, fears for increase in visa cancellations
- The Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill was successfully passed by the House of Representatives, with support from the Labor Party, in the Federal Government’s third attempt to legislate on this matter.
- If passed through the Senate in the final two remaining sitting days, this Bill would tighten the character test and further increase the Minister for Immigration’s power to reject visas and deport people from Australia based on whether they been convicted of certain crimes, regardless of the length or severity of sentencing. As noted by Associate Professor Amy Maguire, ‘these amendments would enable to minister to expel someone convicted of a designated crime, even if they did not receive a custodial sentence’.
- The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre noted that this could mean that someone who commits a designated offence (that has a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment) and serves community service, or another light sentence, ‘would lose their visa and be forcibly removed from Australia, separated from their family and livelihoods’.
- You can take action by writing to the Government and Labor Party Senators before their final two sitting days, estimated to be the 29th and 30th March, advocating that this unnecessary and damaging piece of legislation does not pass through the Senate. For the Senators’ contact details, see here.
Global Detention Project Report on Australia’s immigration: “uniquely severe, arbitrary and punitive”
- The Global Detention Project has recently released a country report on Australia’s immigration detention system, titled ‘Immigration Detention in Australia: Turning Arbitrary Detention into a Global Brand’.
- The report provides an overview of the laws, policies, practices in Australian immigration, as well as detention infrastructure. Authors highlight the ‘severe, arbitrary and punitive’ nature of Australia’s detention system, particularly noting the severe damage it has had on individuals, as well as it’s increasing costliness.
- One of the report’s key findings, is that ‘Australia is one of the few countries in the world with a blanket policy of mandatory, indefinite detention of everyone without a visa, including children and people seeking asylum’.
- Similar to the calls in this report, CAPSA recently re-emphasised to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration that Australia must end indefinite detention, when submitting to the Inquiry into the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Detention Bill 2021. There were over 400 submissions to the inquiry.
Other news and updates
- Reports have emerged that Australian and New Zealand Government representatives have reached an ‘in principle’ agreement to resettle those still indefinitely detained in Australia’s offshore processing system. With a ‘final round of negotiations’ yet to take place, advocates are hopeful that finalising this long-standing offer (initially discussed in 2013) will mean that the 104 men detained on Nauru will be resettled to safety.
- Standing in solidarity with people seeking asylum detained in Australia’s immigration system, an ecumenical group of Christian leaders locked themselves inside the Freedom Cage, outside the Park Hotel in Melbourne earlier in February. Sister Brigid Arthur, coordinator of the Brigidine Asylum Seeking Project and life member of Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV), took part in this peaceful protest alongside the Rev Tim Costello and the Rev Alexandra Sangster.
- Run by the Local Government Mayoral Taskforce Supporting People Seeking Asylum, the ‘Back Your Neighbour’ campaign was relaunched in February ahead of the upcoming Federal election. The campaign calls for permanent protection for people seeking asylum who are stuck in visa limbo, with little to no access to community support.
- The theme for the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees (due to be celebrated on 25 September) has been announced by Pope Francis as: Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees. The Dicastery Promoting Integral Human Development has said that this theme ‘highlights the commitment we are called to share in building a future that embraces God’s plan, leaving no one behind.
Upcoming event and actions you can take now
- The Palm Sunday Walk for Justice & Freedom for Refugees is just over a month away! Join your local walk on Sunday 10th April. In Melbourne, the walk will start at 2pm in front of the State Library of Victoria. Further information regarding a CAPSA contingent will be sent to Victorian CAPSA members shortly.
- The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Feast for Freedom event will be occurring for the third consecutive year over the 25th-27th March! Cook up a meal for your friends and family using recipes created by people who have sought refuge and asylum in Australia.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has recently released a new book, titled ‘People Forced to Flee: History, Change and Challenge’. The book ‘draws on lessons of history to probe how we can improve responses to forced displacement’ and is available online and in paperback.
- For those based in Melbourne, Music in Exile is bringing two acts to the Brunswick Music Festival. Chikchika and DJ Kgomotso Sekhu will be performing during March at the Brunswick Mechanics Institute. Tickets, information and details regarding accessibility can be found on the event page.
- The Asylum Speakers Podcast with Jaz O’Hara: Stories of Migration, highlights the stories of people who have left their lives behind to find safety. Host Jaz O’Hara also speaks with experts in the field to provide in depth updates about issues of conflict, displacement and immigration around the world.