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

25 April 2020


Dear <<First Name>>


We hope you are all keeping safe and busy. 

In spite of being unable to hold face-to-face meetings, there are plenty of actions which one can take and numerous Zoom conferences/meetings available in which to participate.

We are certain that the NSW Labor Conference scheduled for the 18 and 19 July this year will be cancelled so the deadline of 22 April to submit motions for the State Conference has now been extended.   Labor for Refugees was forced to cancel our last meeting scheduled for the 19 March, at which time we planned to discuss the wording of a refugee motion for Conference.  It can now wait until Party units recommence holding their usual meetings.

 The minutes of our last meeting follow L4RMinutes26Feb2020

Labor for Refugees Statement re Covid-19 and Immigration Detainees

14 April 2020

Labor for Refugees strongly supports the position of a number of organisations regarding the urgent need to release immigration detainees in line with recommendations of peak medical bodies and human rights lawyers advising the federal government on their response to COVID-19. In particular, Labor for Refugees endorses the statement made by Australia's Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow who has declared that these detainees should be put into community detention where it is safe to do so.  He said that putting people in community detention would enable these people to practise social distancing, as we are all urged to do, and that this must be done as soon as possible.

Commissioner Santow’s position aligns with the joint position of the World Health Organization (WHO), UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration (OIM) and UN Commissioner for Human Rights.

The link to Commissioner Santow’s SBS interview, where he clearly sets out his position on this issue and the reasons for it, follows


Close Immigration Detention Now - Tele-Town Hall Zoom Event

Young Labor Left and Labor for Refugees will be holding a Tele-Town Hall to discuss the risk that COVID-19 poses to asylum seekers and refugees in immigration detention. 
We will be joined by:

  • Sabrin Farooqui, Vice President of Labor for Refugees

  • Ian Rintoul Member of the Refugee Action Coalition Sydney

  • Alison Battisson Director of refugee advocacy group Human Rights for All

We will also be voting on a motion calling on Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to demand the closure of all onshore and offshore immigration detention centres.

The motion follows:

“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”
If you wish to participate and vote at our meeting, you will need to register for a Zoom link. Please register at the following link


Other actions in support of People Seeking Asylum

Amnesty International Campaign


More than 100 refugees and asylum seekers imprisoned in Australian hotels are at  risk of contracting COVID-19, due to conditions unfit for stopping the spread of the virus. 

The Australian authorities transferred more than 100 people from Manus and Nauru to Australia for medical treatment before the repeal of the Medevac Bill in late 2019. Since then, our government has continued to detain people at the hotels.

The conditions for refugees in hotels are a COVID health disaster waiting to happen: people are held in crowded conditions, made worse by communal meal and activity arrangements. Social distancing measures simply aren’t possible in the hotels. Amnesty has evidence of people being crowded in rooms of 20 or more people for extended periods of time. 


Sign the petition here:


NSW Council for Civil Liberties

NSWCCL is asking its members and supporters to urgently write to a group of Federal Ministers warning them of the risks involved in keeping 100 refugees in the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel, an alternative place of detention (APOD) in Brisbane, and 50 in the Mantra Hotel APOD in Melbourne. We are calling for their immediate release into safe places in the community as part of the public health response to the COVID-19 emergency.

The risk in APODs is that they are crowded, and social distancing is impossible. Moreover, guards, service staff and others go in and out, generally without personal protective equipment. 

Please write in your own words, or copy and paste the example letter below into an email, and send to:

The Hon. Alan Tudge, Acting Minister for Immigration
The Hon. Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs
The Hon. Anne Ruston, Services Minister
The Hon. Greg Hunt, Minister for Health

The Hon. David Coleman, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs


Dear Ministers,

You will be aware of the concerns expressed by Mr. Ed. Santow about the COVID-19 health risk due to overcrowding inside two alternative places of detention (APODs) for refugees and asylum seekers - that is, in the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel in Brisbane and the Mantra Hotel in South Preston, Victoria.  According to Mr. Santow, social distancing is not possible while so many are detained there, and the lives of the detainees are at risk.

APODs are not isolated from the wider community--guards, service staff, cleaners and others go in and out.  They can carry infection in, and others will carry it out.  Mr. Santow's warning should be treated seriously and the response should be urgent.

I remind you of the consequences of Donald Trump's dismissal of warnings about the novel coronavirus as fear-mongering.

I am writing therefore to urge you to rescue the people detained in those two places from their almost inevitable infection with the SARS-2 virus if they stay there, and the likely deaths of some of them.   I urge you  to act swiftly and place them in community detention, or release them to safe places in the community. 

It is true that cases have been trending down: in Queensland in particular there have been no new cases of the virus in the last few days.  However, as Professor Paul Kelly, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said on the ABC’s Coronacast podcast on Wednesday 22 April, there is a risk of a second wave of the virus, which would be worse than the first.   Moreover, there may be asymptomatic cases, with people who are not aware that they have the disease able to spread it to others, who may die of it. 

There are 9,900 members of I Have a Room who have declared their willingness to take an asylum seeker or refugee each from detention into their own homes. 

I urge you to take up their offers, and act before it is too late.

Yours sincerely,



Refugee Council of Australia #NobodyLeftBehind

Labor for Refugees has become a signatory with other groups/organisations in an open letter addressed  to the Prime Minister as part of the RCOA campaign #NobodyLeftBehind

It asks for leadership on three key issues for people seeking asylum, refugees, and other temporary migrants who have been made vulnerable by this crisis.  

The letter is available here and outlines three asks for people seeking asylum on bridging visas and for temporary visa holders including refugees, temporary migrant workers and international students:

1. Ensuring all people have access to medical treatment and Medicare for people seeking asylum 

2. Ensuring all people have a financial safety net so they are not forced into destitution: 

  • Extend JobSeeker to people on bridging visas currently ineligible for income support  

  • Extend JobKeeper to temporary visa holders so that businesses employing them can continue to operate 

  • Remove penalties for Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders accessing Special Benefit in light of the pandemic and remove restrictions on accessing Special Benefit for Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or SHEV holders who are studying  

3. Preventing people from losing legal status and access to support.

We hope you will join us for our Tele-Town Hall event next Thursday evening.


Kind regards

Nizza Siano
Secretary L4R NSW

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