Sisters of St Joseph of Lochinvar

Dignity to Asylum Seekers Image

Dignity to Asylum Seekers

Currently in Australia there are some 30,000 people living on Bridging (interim) visas. These people fled their Countries and have sought refuge in Australia. These 30,000 came here on boats from surrounding Countries and under International Law had the right to seek asylum here. The Australian Government, overwhelmed at the number of asylum seekers arriving on our shores, passed legislation declaring that any asylum seeker arriving by boat after 13 August 2012 and before 1 January 2014 would be considered an “illegal maritime arrival” and would be held in detention and never be granted the right to live in Australia. Detention Centres were located in Nauru and Christmas Island.

These 30,000 asylum seekers have been unable to make a valid application for any visa including for a protection visa. The Minister for Immigration, at the end of 2016, commenced writing a letter of invitation to the asylum seekers. They were able, on receipt of this letter, to apply for either a Temporary Protecting Visa (TPV) (3 years) or a Safe Haven Visa (SHEV) (5 years). For the latter visa the applicant must live and/or work in a designated rural area without receiving any social security benefits for a total of 3.5 years. These people on either (TPVs or SHEVS) will never be granted the right to remain permanently in Australia.

There has been much concern for those whose applications fail.  This means that those who have been through the primary interview and Administrative Appeals Tribunal or Immigration Assessment Authority stage and have been found NOT to be refugees are not owed protection in Australia. While people may still appeal through the Courts, they may have to survive for years without:

Work rights

Access to government financial assistance

Access to Medicare.

Many will be forced to make the difficult decision to return home but for the Hazaras from Afghanistan, Tamils from Sri Lanka and for stateless Rohingyas and Kurds, the decision may put them at-risk of further persecution and for some may be a matter of life and death.

It was with much joy and pride that I read the Media Release from V de P on 7 July 2017 that Vinnies has partnered with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service ( RACS).

Vinnies NSW CEO Jack de Groot stated: “RACS and Vinnies realised that the punitive approach taken by the Government was preventing people who are seeking asylum from not only accessing a fair process, but also from being able to meet their most basic human needs. Many of the people seeking our help are left in Limbo until their immigration status is sorted and in the meantime, survive only because of family, friends and community support. The Vinnies Asylum Seeker Program provides case management, financial assistance and wrap-around support to people seeking asylum who may be at risk of homelessness as they have no form of income and have minimal support options available to them.”

As a Migration Agent I have been volunteering with RACS for 2 years. I have been overwhelmed by the commitment, professionalism and selflessness of the staff and volunteers at RACS. What a wonderful partnership.

Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has“ Margaret Mead.

Carmel Hanson