L4R newsletter - keeping you informed and up to date on our current issues and challenges.
21 October 2021
Dear <<First Name>>
GOOD NEWS AND BAD
There has been a lot happening for refugees and people seeking asylum since we sent you our last September newsletter.
The Afghan crisis exploded with desperate Afghanis attempting to flee their country. Labor for Refugees added our voice to the demands for the government to lift Australia's intake to the level of other countries who offered to take 20,000+ refugees from Afghanistan. We felt that this was the least Australia could do.
Sadly, it does not appear this government has listened.
On 7 October last, a Joint statement on Afghanistan was signed by 57 NSW MPs.
An extract follows:
"Whilst Australia’s announcement of a willingness to receive 3,000 Afghan refugee is welcome, it falls well short of the commitments made by other coalition partners in Afghanistan. Canada and Britain, for instance , have each committed to resettle 20,000 refugees over the coming years.We call on the Federal Government to follow the example of these nations and increase our refugee intake, to provide a future to those fleeing the perils of a Taliban controlled Afghanistan and to honour the legacy of those brave Australian ADF personnel, and the Afghani allies, who fought in Australia’s longest conflict, the Afghan War."
Only this week, as predicted by refugee advocates, we learned that at least 13 of the 46 detainees who are imprisoned in Melbourne's Park Hotel, have tested positive to COVID-19.
There has been growing concern that lagging vaccination rates, together with and the forced confinement within hotels acting as detention centres, is exposing unvaccinated and vulnerable people to the virus.
Protests have taken place with more to come.
The media has reported that as at the 6 September, the latest date for which figures were released, 52% of people in immigration detention had had at least one vaccination dose, and 17% were fully vaccinated, compared with 63.2% of eligible Australians with at least one dose in the wider population and 38.4% fully vaccinated.
This is an appalling situation.
Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, said the government had “failed to implement the most basic Covid protocols”.
He said the hotel was circulating air-conditioned air between the first floor – where isolated confirmed cases are held – and floors two and three, where other asylum seekers and refugees are held. The windows in the hotel cannot be opened: they were sealed shut after refugees were moved into the hotel in December.
“The Park hotel is a Covid incubator,” Rintoul said. “The government has created the conditions most likely to cause maximum infection among a very vulnerable group of people. More Covid cases in the Park hotel are inevitable.”
Papua New Guinea
Today, we also learnt that refugees living in PNG under Australia's offshore processing program have tested positive to COVID-19.
The country is grappling with a major Delta outbreak, amid low vaccination rates.
Advocates say that the federal government must bring sick refugees to Australia for treatment.
About 124 men who remain in the country are being given the option to settle in PNG with a pathway to citizenship and financial support.
Alternatively, they can request transfer to Nauru, where they will remain in Australia's offshore processing system.
The PNG government will become responsible for refugees and asylum seekers who choose to remain in the country from next year.
Last month, we learnt of a serious incident of a person seeking asylum, who was the subject of a petition 12 months ago, forcibly removed from Immigration Detention and put on a plane to be returned to his country of origin, somewhere in S-E Europe. This was in defiance of an interim measure from the UN Human Rights Committee. The Committee stated that it had significant concerns this man would face harm in his home country. He had been in detention for eight years, was seriously unwell, weighed only 50 kilograms and was unable to walk more than a few steps unaided. His homeland was also experiencing a severe COVID outbreak - yet more danger for him.
We wrote to Senator Kristina Keneally on 23 September last, pointing out that the protection guaranteed by the Coalition, when they convinced Labor to support the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Bill 2021 (now an Act), did not work because this government has not complied with its obligation not to refoule.
Please read the letter we sent to Senator Keneally which proposes two safeguards that must be vigorously pursued to prevent what happened to this man, from happening again L4RletterSenKeneallyRefoulement23Sep21
We also wrote to Senator Keneally, asking her to support an amendment to the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), specifically to delete Section 36(2B), which allows the government to deport people seeking asylum, to their country of origin, in spite of their fear of persecution. This clause has allowed the deportation of a number of Hazaras to Afghanistan, using this section to deport them to another part of their country. This does not guarantee protection for a person from facing persecution and serious harm.
Labor for Refugees, together with at least a dozen ALP branches and other Party Units, submitted the following motion to the NSW Conference.
"This conference calls on Labor in government, to make available to people seeking asylum and refugees, concessional travel on NSW public transport and access to hospitals where they wouldn’t otherwise have access under Medicare. This is to ensure that refugees and people seeking asylum in NSW are not left behind or put at a greater risk of catching COVID19.
In view of the pandemic, everyone needs to have access to health care and health services in order to protect all members of the community.
We also urge Labor to provide access to education in the form of early education in pre-schools, after-school care and access to training to better equip refugees/people seeking asylumwith skills which will place them in readiness for when they can apply for jobs.
Further, that we provide support for the creation of a Migrant Workers Centre, such as the one in Victoria, that empowers migrant workers to understand their rights, enforce them in their workplaces and help them to connect with other migrant workers in the community."
However, the Policy Committee only examined the first paragraph of our motion submitted by one branch and responded as follows.
Recommendation: Note and refer to FPLP. The Committee notes that in NSW, asylum seekers are entitled to concessional transport arrangements. The Committee acknowledges that the non-government sector provides unfunded and substantial support for asylum seekers and refugees in the community.
We did however, succeed in having our last paragraph about the the creation of a Migrant Workers Centre supported by a different Policy Committee which read:
The following clause to be inserted into the NSW Labor Platform in Chapter 4 at 4.29 Wage Theft: "NSW Labor in government will support the establishment of a Migrant Workers Centre to provide advice and advocacy for migrant workers affected by wage theft, and other exploitative practices”.
It was difficult to have any debate at this years online one day conference unless prior agreement had been reached with NSW Labor but we take comfort from the fact that next year, our state conference will be held in-person for two days and will take place prior to the 2023 NSW election. That should allow us to submit a refugee motion and push for its acceptance which if adopted, will become NSW Labor's policy in readiness for when NSW Labor forms government in 2023.
Immigration 'character test' bill to strengthen visa-cancellation powers - fails
Good news (for a change). The Senate blocked that dreadful visa cancellation bill called the Migration and Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill, after there was an ‘overwhelming rejection’ of the proposed legislation. Concerns had been raised in submissions focused on the ‘significant implications’ for migrants who face deportation or indefinite detention due to the cancellation of their visas, which would be more difficult for individuals to challenge under the new legislation.
L4R NSW Assistant Secretary and Webmaster Cath Crittenden, recently finished reading the book 'Escape from Manus’.
She has recommended it for members and wanted to provide a brief review which follows:
ESCAPE FROM MANUS Jaivet Ealom (Viking Penguin 2021)
This book is an amazing adventure, a real page turner, ‘the true untold story’ of how one man managed to escape from detention on Manus Island. It lays bare the cruelty and neglect of Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum, as well as of those found to be refugees. Behrouz Boochani’s ‘No Friend But the Mountains’ also provides a devastating first hand report of the suffering inflicted by Australia on already traumatised people. Boochani’s book, poetic and philosophical, was smuggled out of Manus Island. Jaivet Ealom’s perspective, a reflection from a safe place, complements Boochani’s book in some ways, but it also details one man’s ingenuity and determination in his quest to escape Australia’s brutal clutches. Those who dislike plot spoilers might like to leave looking at the photos in the centre of the book till last.
Next L4R Meeting - Wednesday 27 October @ 6pm
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