March 2020 Bulletin
While our shared concerns about public health are important, let’s also remember that people seeking asylum and refugees are still struggling with the injustices, insecurity and cruelty of the current polices, and we must to continue to work together for change.
The Catholic Church and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees were two of the groups which established the Jubilee Charter Of The Rights Of Displaced People in 2000. Among other things, the charter states that displaced people have:
- The right to live in dignity and to receive the help necessary while the asylum application is being considered.
- The right to have a dignified life in the country of asylum for as long as the conditions of insecurity in the country of origin last, through active participation in the social and productive life of the host country.
There are thousands of people in Australia expressing the compassion of the gospel either face to face with people seeking asylum or helping to change the structures that do not respect their dignity.
It is easy to lose heart in the face of intransigent policies and practices that lack respect for the dignity. But the imperative of the gospel is that we maintain hope and persist. We can make a difference. We are making a difference.
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.
Craig Foster – former Socceroo, Broadcaster and Human Rights Advocate – is asking people to join him in calling #GameOver and getting all those left stranded offshore, to safety.
In October 2019, Craig travelled to Port Moresby, PNG, where he met with many of the refugees and people seeking asylum sent to Manus Island more than seven years ago by the Australian Government. He learnt of the struggles that they have faced and believed Australia must work together with our neighbours to find these people permanent homes.
With the new year now well and truly underway, we must boost our efforts to make this a reality. To do this, we need to come together as one united voice, because this is bigger than any one of us.
CAPSA recently endorsed the campaign – you can head to gameover.org.au and become a support of #GameOver as well.
Events around the nation
Update on plans for the 2020 Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees – Sunday 5 April
Given the current public health concerns and ban on gatherings above 100 people, the Walk will not go ahead in the usual format. On Palm Sunday people are being encouraged to participate in a social media campaign and an online/email lobbying action to draw attention to the situation for refugees and people seeking asylum. There will be a ‘virtual event’ with recorded presentations by speakers to support the online campaign.
Further details will be provided about how to participate in the virtual event, the online/email action and the social media campaign in place of the Walk for Justice. See:https://www.facebook.com/palmsundaywalk
Refugee Week 2020: save the date!
Preparations for Refugee Week 2020 are underway. This year events right across the country will take place from 14-20 June.
Keep an eye on the Refugee Week website for updates and announcements!
Refugee Alternatives conference 2020
The Refugee Alternatives conference was held in Brisbane on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 February.
Last month hundreds of people gathered in Brisbane for RCOA’s fourth annual ‘Refugee Alternatives’ Conference. This year’s theme was the “Challenge of Change”.
Delegates travelled from across Australia and beyond to talk about alternative solutions for refugee policy, and examine how we can all improve our efforts to promote change. Coordination and ensuring people with lived experience are front and centre of those efforts were key themes.
You can watch the Challenge of Change opening plenary here.
The Refugee Council of Australia is declaring 2020 the #YearOfWelcome and is working with thousands of people across the country to foster a welcoming spirit towards refugees and people seeking asylum in communities all over.
The #YearOfWelcome February Action is to learn directly from people with lived experience of seeking asylum, by watching the discussion and sharing it in your networks.
By listening to these valuable insights and following the leadership of people from refugee communities, we have an opportunity to make our advocacy both more respectful and more effective.
Commonwealth Ombudsman: Report into the current state of immigration detention facilities
You may have heard that the UN torture prevention group will be making a visit to Australia (subsequently postponed due to COVID-19).
In 2018 the Ombudsman’s Office was made the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) with responsibility for inspecting places of detention under the control of the Commonwealth, in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), which Australia ratified in 2017. The Office is also the NPM Coordinator for Australia. In this capacity, the Ombudsman has decided to commence regularly publishing information about the Office’s work in overseeing immigration detention.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman recently published a report about his Office’s activities in overseeing immigration detention during the first half of 2019.This is the first publicly released report since beginning in 2011.
The report outlines concerns the Office has about the facilities within modular high security compounds in immigration detention facilities. These concerns have been communicated to the department and the ABF, and the relevant facilities will continue to be a focus of inspections. The report also highlights the Ombudsman’s concerns with respect to the very long duration of detention of some detainees. The Office will continue to monitor these issues and report on progress in future reports.
In Senate Estimates on 2 March 2020, it was revealed that:
- 702 people held offshore have been resettled to the United States, to date
- A further 260 people have been provisionally accepted to resettle in the US, but have not yet departed
- There are currently 439 people in PNG and Nauru (228 in PNG and 211 in Nauru)
- 1,220 people are currently on the Australian mainland who were previously detained offshore
Recommended Reading & Viewing
Articles on the upcoming UN visits to inspect places of detention in Australia:
- The abuse of people in detention happens in secret; OPCAT findings must be made public(Jesuit Social Services)
- Australian OPCAT Network reports on immigration issues (Kaldor Centre)
- Concerns about systemic cruelty and arbitrariness in Australia’s immigration detention system raised with two United Nations bodies ahead of their visits to Australia (Refugee Council of Australia)
Other links of note: