June 2020 update
This week is Refugee Week 2020, seven days of events including panel discussions, poetry, film and story-telling, all taking place online given COVID-19 restrictions.
This year’s theme is Celebrating the Year of Welcome and the line-up of official events is accessible here.
Schools, individuals and community organisations are all encouraged to get involved – whether hosting an event or raising awareness about the week. See the website for more information and keep an ear out for any side-events happening as part of the week!
CAPSA continues to advocate for people seeking asylum who are especially vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. We have signed up to a public statement from Liberty Victoria’s Rights Advocacy Project calling on the government to ensure people seeking asylum are granted bridging visas and able to access crucial government support services.
Webinar: Child immigration detention in Australia
As part of Refugee Week, our colleagues at the End Child Detention Coalition are holding a free online webinar to discuss the issue of child immigration detention in Australia.
The discussion will be hosted by Hayat Akbari, who was detained for over a year as a child and is now chair of the youth working group at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. Hayat will be joined by Professor David Issacs, a paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, and Alison Battisson, prominent lawyer, advocate and founder of Human Rights for All.
The webinar is on Thursday, 18 June at 6pm AEST and you can register your interest here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_n_aCqRa8TdezKwTQJXQv1A
Federal COVID-19 inquiry
At the time of writing, more than 100 organisations and individuals have made submissions to the Senate Select Committee’s inquiry into the Australian Government’s response to COVID-19, including many with a focus on refugees and people seeking asylum.
A number of submitters highlighted the heightened health risks faced by people held in immigration detention during the pandemic and called for their safe release. Various submissions also called for the government’s economic support measures to be extended to vulnerable groups, including people seeking asylum, who are currently excluded.
Search and seizure powers in immigration detention
In May, the Federal Government introduced a bill that provides new search and seizure powers for Australian Border Force officers in immigration detention. The bill, which is largely the same as legislation first introduced in 2017 that did not proceed, would enable officers to seize mobile phones and sim cards.
Introduced at a time when people in detention are coping with the additional uncertainty and health risks of COVID-19, the bill has been criticised by the Refugee Council of Australia, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Law Centre, among others.
- SBS – These doctors have slept outside for 300 nights to protest Australia’s refugee detention
- Jesuit Social Services – https://jss.org.au/refugee-week-the-year-of-welcome/
- The Guardian – Australian government put Manus staff at risk of harm in lead-up to deadly riots, court told
- AMES Australia – “Don’t give up, give back”
- SMH – Asylum seekers lodge claim to address detention virus fears
- ABC – Organisations fear humanitarian crisis unfolding due to lack of federal support for people seeking asylum