17 August 2021
Dear <<First Name>>
Next L4R Meeting - Wednesday 25 August @ 6pm
Join our Zoom Meeting tomorrow week using the following link:
You'll be sent a reminder email with the link on the day of our meeting.
The Minutes of our last meeting can be read at L4RNSWmin28Jul21
Please bring a copy of these minutes with you to our Zoom meeting.
Q&A with Kristina Keneally
On Monday the 13 September 2021 at 6.30pm we will be holding a Q&A using Zoom with Senator Kristina Keneally who will be our guest. Kristina will answer questions from Labor for Refugees members Australia-wide.
We are sure that you have a number of questions that you'd like to ask the Senator in her capacity as Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.
Please note the details of this event in your diaries and as it gets closer, you will be sent the Zoom link.
Vale Virginia Walker
Virginia Walker OAM sadly died on 25 July last. She was the founder and chairperson of Bridge for Asylum Seekers Foundation (BASF). She was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in July 2014 for the work she did for refugees and people seeking asylum. Virginia was inspired to start the organisation when she realised there was a real gap in services for asylum seekers when they are first released from detention. Her vision was to establish a foundation which saved people from homelessness and hunger, enabled them to access legal support and helped them with their visa applications. Virginia was a long term member of the ALP Paddington Branch, then Blackwattle Glebe Branch and more recently Five Dock Branch. She was a great supporter of Labor for Refugees.
L4R NSW has made a donation to the Bridge for Asylum Seekers in Virginia’s honour.
The following tribute was submitted by L4R member Natalie Gould who knew Virginia intimately.
“Today sadly we learnt that Virginia Walker has died. I have known Virginia most of my life. She joined Paddington branch of the ALP after the Australia Party of which she had been a member, ceased to exist. My mum was secretary of the Paddington branch. Virginia was always a political activist who made a difference.
I will never forget the day that she began my long journey as a refugee supporter and advocate.
One Sunday morning about 20 years ago at a Sydney FEC meeting, Virginia was asking people to help various asylum seekers living in our community. From that meeting I began sharing my house with a Bengali asylum seeker, Zahid Hossain, and Virginia and Francis Milne, Mairi Petersen, Christine Kibble, John Valder and myself established Bridge for Asylum Seekers to support asylum seekers living in the community.
Virginia continued to run Bridge as long as she was well enough to do so.
A year after that meeting a friend of Zahid's was detained for the next 3 and a half years. Virginia was visiting Villawood Detention Centre the next day when Zahid and I visited Babul. I met Virginia at Villawood Detention Centre weekly.
Virginia visited Villawood for more than 20 years and was a good friend to many people who needed support, including many people who are now citizens. Babul, who shares my house with my husband and me, has been reminiscing about Virginia always bringing him chillies and treating him with great respect and kindness. Virginia and others made life in Villawood bearable whilst referring people to pro bono lawyers and legal advocates.
Visiting Villawood and advocating for asylum seekers is heartbreaking and hard work. Virginia did it for more than 20 years. She was a wonderful person who will be remembered by many people whose lives she affected for the better.
For me, that fateful meeting led me to be a better, more compassionate, kind and useful person. Thank You Virginia.
Vale Virginia Walker.
Letter to NSW Opposition Leader
Labor for Refugees sent a letter to the NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns on 30 July last re the NSW lockdown. Copies were sent to the relevant NSW State Shadow MPs responsible for the impacted areas of the LGAs that were in strict lockdown as well as to Senator Keneally.
Our request to support the people living in those effected LGAs was an unconventional one but we thought necessary, given that realistically, many of those residents would not qualify for the ‘COVID-19 Disaster Payment’ as they would previously have been working undocumented hours before losing their jobs.
You can read our letter using the link L4RNSWletterChris Minns30Jul21
UN human rights expert decries boat turnbacks as Australia criticised for secrecy of ‘on-water matters’.
Report notes Australia has pushed back 800 people on 38 vessels since 2013 and says practice is ‘cruel and deadly’.
The ALP still has a policy which supports turning back boats which Labor for Refugees has attempted to overturn at every opportunity.
Last month, Ben Doherty of The Guardian reported that a senior UN official has said, forcibly pushing back migrant boats is a “cruel and deadly practice” that violates international law, and risks sending people back to death, torture or persecution, warning countries that militarised borders and boat interdictions were contributing to deaths, not saving lives.
In a report to the UN human rights council, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales, specifically noted Australia had pushed back an estimated 800 people on 38 vessels since 2013, but that there were few details on Australia’s actions at sea.
“Migrants have reportedly been turned back on their original vessels that might have been repaired or refuelled by Australia; they have been transferred to lifeboats or wooden ‘fishing’ boats purchased by Australia; occasionally, they have been detained aboard customs or navy vessels before being returned.”
In a submission to a UN forum overnight on Wednesday, senior research fellow at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Madeline Gleeson said that Australia’s “militant secrecy” over “on-water matters” obscured any oversight over what was being done to asylum seekers intercepted at sea.
Those seeking asylum in Australia by boat were “out of options”, Gleeson told the UN-hosted panel, and desperate to find safety.
“So what measures of coercion are being deployed against them by Australian officers to convince them to simply turn around and go back to Indonesia?
We have seen reports that Australian officials paid smugglers to take people back – which, if true, would appear to involve serious breaches of both Australian and international law.
But what else is occurring in the seas north and west of Australia?”
Gleeson said Operation Sovereign Borders’ “militant secrecy” meant the Australian people, even its parliament, were prevented from knowing what happened at sea.
Gleeson said migrants were pushed back, often to the countries they had fled, without any consideration whether it was safe for them to be returned. Australia is legally obliged to individually consider each person’s protection claim.
The crisis in Afghanistan
The situation in Afghanistan is dire and the images coming out of Kabul are horrendous. We can all do our bit by lobbying our politicians to help Afghan refugees and their families.
Labor for refugees supports the campaign to write to your Federal MP or Senators, asking them to urge the Morrison government to commit to a number of actions.
A sample of the letter follows:
With the Taliban now in control of Kabul, the situation is also increasingly desperate for the many Afghan refugees in Australia who are on Temporary Protection Visas or in immigration detention.
It may never be safe again for them to return to Afghanistan and refugee advocacy organisations are urging a humanitarian response from the Australian government.
We therefore urge the Morrison Government to:
- Grant permanent protection or citizenship to all Afghan people seeking asylum and refugee status currently living
in Australia or in immigration detention
- Declare an intake of 20,000 Afghan refugees (matching the Canadian commitment just announced)
- Assist Afghan Australians with urgent family reunion applications for relatives who are in imminent danger
- Lift the ban on UNHCR resettlement of refugees in Australia who are registered and based in Indonesia