L4R newsletter - keeping you informed and up to date on our current issues and challenges.
Labor for Refugees New South Wales

1 May 2020


Dear <<First Name>>

The vote is in!!


On Thursday evening, Labor for Refugees co-hosted a Zoom event with Young Labor Left. 

The moderator, YYL and L4R member CIAN GALEA introduced the session with his inspiring words calling on all of us to do our bit to ensure that refugees be removed from their hell-holes in offshore and onshore detention, as well as from APODs (Alternative Places of Detention) and urged us to support a motion which would be put to members at the end of the event.

The three guest speakers on the panel then made their presentation. 

DR SABRIN FAROOQUI who is the Jnr Vice President of Labor for Refugees NSW and the President of Cultural Diversity Network, spoke about the dreadful conditions of those incarcerated who were being exposed to appalling conditions with no protection from the Covid-19 pandemic.  She said not only would this result in the spread of the virus amongst them but it could well spread into the community, particularly from those locked up in the APODs located in Brisbane and Melbourne.  Many of these refugees locked up in these APODs were brought there because they were very ill.   They are therefore even more susceptible to this virus.

Sabrin listed the numerous campaigns in which Labor for Refugees was involved, in an effort to move these refugees into safe community detention.  She mentioned that there was support from within the Labor Party by politicians such as Senator Kristina Keneally and MP Ged Kearny but that it was also important to have Labor's Leader, Anthony Albanese speak out forcibly about the need to remove these refugees.  

Sabrin appealed for people to support the work we do and to join us in lobbying our Party to put pressure on the Coalition to release the refugees into safe community detention.  She also spoke about the "forgotten" people on bridging visas who currently live in Australia with no support from the government.  They receive no Job Keeper or Job Seeker payments and therefore receive no medical or welfare support so they have slipped through the cracks and are in dire straits.

IAN RINTOUL, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition Sydney, then spoke about the need to support campaigns that aimed at letting the public know, what was happening to refugees and people seeking asylum.  

He spoke about the work RAC was doing and the need to build a refugee movement in Australia and that RAC had over the last few decades, connected with many other refugee organisations in this country, including Labor for Refugees, in order to raise awareness in the community.  Changes in refugee policies have come about not only from within the political parties but because of mass campaigning by the community.  

He cited the Biloela campaign as an example of this where the mass support for this family has created a shift in public attitude.  The Medevac Bill was another example where political parties joined forces due to pressure from the public.

The Director of Human Rights for All, lawyer ALISON BATTISSON spoke of her experience when visiting detention centres.  The numberof stateless people in Immigration Detention is on the increase.  She said there is no other country in the world who treats its refugees the way Australia does. The pandemic is throwing up a whole lot of new concerns.  Visits to Detention Centres have been stopped for six months.  People in detention who heavily depend on visits from family, advocates and medical professionals, can no longer access them. Physical health is an issue.  Detainees don't want to report injuries because they get placed in isolation.  There is no adequate legal representation.  She offered examples of one detainee who broke his hand and they refused to call an ambulance.  Alison then called an ambulance herself but instead of being driven by ambulance to a hospital, he was punished by being placed in an isolation cell where the air-conditioning was turned to very cold and he was kept in there for well over 24 hours without a blanket or any source of warmth.

She has also been having problems with filing legal papers in court because the court system has been heavily effected by the pandemic so it is massively amplifying the length they are being kept in detention and their mental health. 

Children are also kept in immigration detention.  The government classifies them as "guests" to massage statistics so that children do not appear in records as detainees.  Alison spoke about a two year old who became ill with the flu last year and Alison again had to call an ambulance.  The child, who is normally with her mother in detention, was hospitalised for six weeks but they would not allow her to see her father who is in the community.  That meant this two year old child was unable to see either of her parents for six weeks.   Such cruelty.

She spoke about an aboriginal man who has cancer and only has six months to live and is receiving palliative care.  He has a stolen generation partner and sister who cannot visit him.  The Dept has made it clear that they will not even review his case. 

She told us that Immigration Detention is a tinderbox.  Dutton is identified as the roadblock.  Even when there is a bit of sympathy in the Dept,  as soon as he gets wind of it,  Dutton stops it.  Alison offered more examples of the impediments facing lawyers and how the Conservative High Court is another hurdle they have to face.   She said that there needs to be a groundswell from the community for anything to change.

Her organisation Human Rights for All started a petition demanding all detainees are released from offshore and onshore detention.  So far there are 52,000+ signatories. The history of pandemics is that they don't just last for a year. Every pandemic is cyclical and lasts for a number of years.  It only needs one person who gets into a detention centre with Covid for it to flow through into the community.

Cian then summed up the meeting, thanking all the speakers and participants and put the following motion, asking members to check a box to record whether they were in favour or against the motion.

The motion read -

“We call on Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to demand the immediate release of all refugees and asylum seekers being held in onshore and offshore detention as well as in temporary hotel accommodation.  Asylum seekers urgently need to be moved to safe community accommodation to ensure their health and safety, particularly in the face of the current COVID-19 crisis”

The result of the vote was 117 in favour and 1 against.  So we can confidently say that this motion was carried overwhelmingly.

What You Can do
Please send an email supporting our refugee motion to all ALP Senators and MPs.  It's impossible for me to list all their emails for you in this newsletter so I will provide you with a link to a Word document where all their email addresses appear  You can then cut and paste these email addresses into one email and send a message to members of the ALP Caucus. 

Let them know how strongly you support the refugee motion which was overwhelmingly supported at a Tele-Town Hall event for L4R members on Thursday 30 April 2020.  Please also reproduce the motion which appears in this newsletter.

We believe that such a letter-writing campaign can make a difference and that our Caucus members need to know how important it is that our Party adopts the only possible humane position it can, that is, to act with compassion and not to allow these people, who did nothing more than seek protection from Australia, to perish, locked up in offshore and onshore Immigration Detention Centres.



Kind regards

Nizza Siano
Secretary L4R NSW

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