CAPSA newsletter October 2023

Dear CAPSA Community,

Thank you as always for your continued support. Recently, CAPSA ran this year’s National Week of Prayer and Action and celebrated the 109th World Day of Migrant and Refugee Sunday 24th September. We welcomed the news that Neil Para has been given permanent protection. Neil completed his 1000km Walk for Freedom to advocate for permanency for 10 000 people seeking asylum on temporary visas. We also heard the disturbing news that the previous government was warned that it may be breaching its duty of care for those in detention. Further, we understand that the men remaining in PNG, who are now residing in the community, face eviction from their current housing. The Australian Government indicates that it is no longer responsible for financial support of this group.

In the remainder of this newsletter, you’ll find other recent updates, a list of upcoming events and actions including CAPSA’s National Week of Prayer and Action, and recommended reading, watching and listening.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us with your stories, thoughts or community actions via

In hope and solidarity,

The CAPSA team

CAPSA’s 2023 National Week of Prayer and Action

CAPSA celebrated its National Week of Prayer and Action (NWPA) 4-8th September, and celebrated the 109th World Day of Migrant and Refugee Sunday on 24th September

Every year, CAPSA runs the NWPA, with week-long events to engage the Catholic community to encourage reflection and taking action on issues impacting people seeking asylum. This year’s theme for NWPA was ‘freedom to live for refugees and people seeking asylum, inspired by Pope Francis’ message for World Day of Migrant and Refugees, ‘free to choose whether to migrate or stay’.

Our main event was a webinar, involving an expert discussion panel discussing the freedom to live theme in the Australian context and beyond. CAPSA also posted three stories from individuals who have all taken action in different ways, including Neil Para, and we shared a school resource kit on different ways that students and teachers can take action

To see more information on this year’s NWPA, see further details here. You can view the recording of our webinar here, our stories here, our school resources here and our post from Fr Andy Hamilton on World Day of Migrants and Refugees here

Neil Para’s 1000km for Freedom completed and is granted permanent protection

  • Neil Para, a refugee rights activist with his own lived experience of seeking asylum who walked 1000km from Ballarat to Sydney under hisWalk for Freedom campaign has been granted permanent protection along with his entire family
  • Neil has been living in Ballarat, Victoria with his wife and three daughters since 2013, afterescaping persecution in Sri Lanka for being Tamil. At the time of his 1000km Walk for Freedom, Neil and his family had no valid visa and had no work or study rights or access to Medicare
  • Following the end of Neil’s Walk for Freedom, he and his family weregranted permanent protection by the Federal Government
  • Neil’s Walk to Freedom was toadvocate for the permanent protection of 10 000 people who are currently waiting in limbo on temporary visas or no visas at all, including Neil and his own family. Neil walked from Ballarat to Marrickville in Sydney, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s electorate
  • While it is incredible news that Neil and his family have been given permanency, 10 000 other people in similar circumstances are still waiting in limbo and also need to be given permanent protection
  • To support Neil’s work, follow the Union of Australian Refugeeshere which he has founded. You can read Neil’s story from CAPSA’s National Week of Prayer and Action here

Previous Government was aware of its potential contradictions to its duty of care of those in immigration detention

  • In September, information obtained by the Guardian from an independent report from 2020 revealed concerns about a potential breach of the Government’sduty of care of those who are detained in immigration detention
  • Thesebreaches include the extended timeframe of waiting for an outcome to protection claims and the increase of people in detention instead of being allowed to remain in the community until their protection applications are resolved. The “prison culture” of detention is a considered health and safety risk to those who are detained there
  • The Government at the time had beenmade aware of these concerns, the impacts to health of being detention and recommended alternatives
  • You can find the full story from the Guardianhere


Men remaining in PNG at risk of accommodation evictions

  • Some of the 70 men who remain in Papua New Guinea through Australia’s offshore detention are at risk of beingevicted from the housing they are currently residing in on Manus Island, as the Australian Government have not paid for the bills of the men for over a year
  • In December 2021, the Australia Government deemed that they were no longer responsible for the men remaining in PNG and this was now under the responsibility of the PNG, something which is in contradiction with their responsibilitiesunder international law. The Australian Government is continues to be responsible for funding the housing and other costs for the men to continue living in PNG
  • Following this, in early October this year the PNG government announced that if the Australian government does not pay various costs that it owes in PNG that the 70 men will besent back to Australia
  • Approximately 70 men still remain on PNG. CAPSA continues to call for the those remaining in PNG to be immediately evacuated back to Australia by the Australian Government, particularly because of ongoing risks to their welfare


Other News and Updates

  • 10 Tamil people seeking asylumfleeing persecution from Sri Lanka who are currently seeking protection on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean, are no longer being forcibly returned to Sri Lanka by the British government. British Indian Ocean Territory supreme court ruled that they will reassess their protection claims, and all protection claims for anyone on Diego Garcia
  • Over5 million people have now been displaced as a result of the ongoing civil conflict in Sudan. Over 1 million of those have become people seeking asylum in neighbouring countries, the remaining of which are internally displaced. UNHCR calls for an urgent need for humanitarian assistance
  • Priya Nadesalingam, part of the refugee Tamil family now resettled permanently in their home of Biloela, publishes hermemoir of her and her family’s story and their experiences including being forced into onshore detention with her husband and two young daughters. You can read more on their story in this article here
  • 20 per cent of Ukrainians have fled the Ukraine as a result of the war, over 8 million people. More than half have fled to theEU or the UK
  • The Australian Government will be required to pay compensation to people seeking asylum who were in detention at the time for a data breach in 2014. Nearly 10 000 people’s personal data was accessible online, with the data breach viewed with IP addresses from countries which may pose a risk to those already trying toseek safety


Upcoming Events and Actions 

Refugee Women Walk for Freedom – Refugee Women Action for Visa Equality 

On 22nd September, the Refugee Women Action for Visa Equality – 22 refugee women deriving from both Sri Lanka and Iran – began walking 640km from Melbourne to Canberra, advocating for permanent protection for the over 10 000 people seeking asylum waiting in limbo on temporary visas, as well as greater work and study rights for people seeking asylum in Australia.  

To support and follow their incredible action, you can follow Refugee Women Action for Visa Equality here, sign the petition here, or donate to the campaign here

The women will be ending their march on 18th October 2023, with a rally in Canberra outside Parliament House. To also be part of the rally, find out further details here




Home to Biloela: The story of the Tamil family that captured our hearts by Priya Nadesalingam with Rebekah Holt. This book shares the well-known story, from the perspective of Priya herself, of Priya and her family’s fight to stay in Australia and be granted permanent protection to allow them to stay in their home in Biloela, regional Queensland after escaping persecution in Sri Lanka as Tamil refugees.

You can find this book here


Freedom to Live for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum – CAPSA webinar National Week of Prayer and Action 2023. View CAPSA’s live recording of our webinar for this year’s NWPA, with an expert discussion panel who explore the theme ‘freedom to live for refugees and people seeking asylum’. Our speakers on the panel were Zaki Haidari (Refugee Rights campaigner at Amnesty International Australia), Sara Muzamil (Sexual and Gender-Based Violence caseworker at Jesuit Refugee Service Australia), Ben Doherty (Reporter for Guardian Australia), Tamara Domicelj (Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Australia and Co-Chair of CAPSA). Jesuit Social Services CEO and Co-Chair of CAPSA, Julie Edwards, chaired the discussion.

To watch the recording of the webinar, you can access the link on YouTube here


Surviving the Refugee Boats and Building a Vietnamese Museum in Australia: A conversation with Mylinh Lee, who arrived in Australia in a boat as a child and a refugeeby Luke Hunt. A podcast led by Southeast Asia correspondent Luke Hunt from the Diplomat with Mylinh Lee, who shares her lived experiences of arriving in Australia in 1979 as a Vietnamese refugee and her work in constructing Vietnamese Museum Australia, due to open in 2025.

To listen to this conversation, find the link here