5 September 2015
HOW AUSTRALIANS CAN HELP
There have been many articles published over the last few days about the refugee tragedy continuing to unfold in Europe. It's easy for us to feel powerless in the face of this crisis so I have chosen a few items that will provide you with ways which you can help. Apologies if you've already seen them.
This article appeared in The Age at: http://www.theage.com.au/world/refugee-crisis-how-you-can-help-refugees-trying-to-reach-safety-in-europe-and-here-in-australia-20150903-gjea65.html
Refugee crisis: How you can help refugees trying to reach safety in Europe and here in Australia
Published: September 4, 2015 - 11:08AM
Europe is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
The Syrian war has created the largest number of refugees. The European border control agency has estimated that 23,000 hopeful migrants arrived in Greece alone last week.
As some European leaders are increasingly trying to prevent refugees and migrants from settling in their countries, more and more refugees are dying in their desperation to reach safety.
Here are some of the ways you can help at home.
- In the first six months of this year, 137,000 refugees and migrants crossed the central Mediterranean Sea route from Libya to Italy, travelling in appalling conditions in unseaworthy wooden boats and rubber dinghies. That number has now topped 150,000.
- Syrians are the largest single group of refugees trying to get to Europe. More than 4 million Syrians have been forced to flee a war that is now in its fifth year. Of those refugees, at least 1.6 million are children.
- Eritreans have accounted for 12 per cent of maritime arrivals, while Afghans have made up 11 per cent. Citizens of Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Iraq also made up a significant number of those trying to find a safe place to call home.
- The issue of maritime rescues in the Mediterranean has been a fraught one. In October 2013, a boat carrying hundreds of refugees from Libya to Italy sank near the island of Lampedusa, killing 368 people.
- Despite this, refugees continue to try to make the Mediterranean crossing in increasing numbers.
- At home, there are more than 28,000 living in Australia on Bridging Visas. Meanwhile, there are 4472 asylum seekers being held in detention in Australia, on Manus Island and Nauru.
Make a donation
- The International Committee of the Red Cross is delivering humanitarian aid to areas like Aleppo, Homs and rural Damascus, as well as assisting the millions of Syrians who have fled to neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Red Cross Red Crescent is helping more than 3.5 million Syrians by providing food parcels and blankets, supplying hygiene kits with toothpaste, toilet paper and soap, and restoring sanitation systems.
- In Australia, the Red Cross works to improve the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, by providing emergency financial relief and linking people to housing, education and social support programs.
- The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is providing water, mosquito nets, tents and healthcare to Syrian refugees. Outside of Syria, thousands of refugees have spent years in exile. With their savings drained and employment opportunities thin on the ground, millions of people are relying on UNHCR for assistance and protection. As little as $15 can provide two families with jerry cans to transport clean water.
- The International Rescue Committee is responding to the humanitarian crisis on the Greek island of Lesbos. Each day some 2000 refugees are arriving on Greece's shores. Most of them have fled the Syrian civil war.
- Save the Children is working with Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt providing families with food, clothing and shelter. The organisation is also conducting large-scale food distributions in Jordan. Meanwhile, in the Za'atari refugee camp, Save the Children has helped to feed over 130,000 children and their families. The organisation is also distributing children's clothing, mattresses, blankets, heating fuel and stoves in Lebanon.
- Médecins Sans Frontières is working rapidly to vaccinate children arriving at refugee camps to prevent the spread of measles. They are also distributing mosquito nets and helping improve basic living conditions to prevent a large-scale epidemic. The organisation also sets up medical clinics in the camps.
- Oxfam is on the ground in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt providing people with clean drinking water, hygiene and sanitation packs and relief supplies such as blankets and stoves. Outside Jordan's large Za'atari refugee camp, Oxfam is providing cash to vulnerable refugees living in informal tent settlements.
- The Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre is an independent community legal centre specialising in all aspects of refugee and immigration law, policy and practice.
- World Vision works in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq providing water and sanitation, health, food security, non-food items like mosquito nets and nutrition kits as well as shelter to children and their families.
Get involved with grassroots groups
- Save the Children runs early learning programs, which help newly arrived migrant and refugee children settle into Australia, as well as initiatives that help young people transition out of youth detention.
- Amnesty International has local action groups across Australia that work to raise awareness about a range of human rights issues, including asylum seekers. These groups meet monthly to discuss issues and decide practical ways to raise awareness, raise funds and take action to have human rights impact.
- Amnesty's Welcome Dinner Project aims to connect new migrants with Australian residents around the dinner table. The aim of these pot-luck shared dinners is to create a platform for meaningful connection, sparking friendships between people of diverse cultures who are living in close proximity to one another but have not had an opportunity to meet in a supported environment.
- West Welcome Wagon is a volunteer-run registered charity supporting asylum seekers in Melbourne's west. It supports asylum seekers in the local community by providing good quality donations of material goods, emergency food relief, neighbour to neighbour social support, as well as special projects such as in-home English support and community engagement.
- Montmorency Asylum Seekers Support Group also raises funds and collects food for the ASRC food bank. Volunteers also support individuals in detention centres and in the community.
- The Brigidine Asylum Seeker Program is looking for volunteers to teach English to new arrivals.
- The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is an ideal base to donate foods and goods to refugees and asylum seekers. People can donate to the centre's Food and Aid Network online through Ceres Fair Food. People can also order food online from Coles or Woolworths and have it delivered to the ASRC. The centre also accepts pots and pans and new linen sets from Kmart, as well as gift cards from Gift Cards online.
ANOTHER GOOD ARTICLE APPEARED YESTERDAY ON THE ABC ONLINE NEWS SITE. IT ALSO LISTS A NUMBER OF ORGANISATIONS TO WHICH YOU CAN DONATE GOODS AS WELL AS FINANCIALLY.
A new petition has just been posted to pressure both major parties in Australia to take 20,000 Syrian refugees and increase the funding to the UNHCR. This extra funding to the UNHCR is in line with Labor’s latest policy and although Labor's policy states the intake be increased to 27,000 refugees per year, this figure of 20,000 is a one-off for Syrian refugees only.
Australia - Show Compassion To The People of Syria!
Campaign created by Brendan Byrne
Why is this important?
This is important because, whenever I see pictures of drowned refugee children, I cannot help but see the face of my own daughter - I cannot help but think that if I was in the situation of the Syrian people, would I not want the rest of the world to respond with compassion?
This is important because, whenever I see pictures of drowned refugee children, I do not think it's time to "stop the boats" - I think it is time for Australia to assist the countries on Syria's border, and in Europe, who are struggling to cope with the flood of refugees created by this humanitarian disaster. I think it is time we did more to help instead of turning our backs on suffering.
This is important because, whenever I see pictures of drowned refugee children, we need to set aside politics and self-interest and respond on a human level - we need to accept our responsibility as a member of the global human community and do more to assist those in need, as well as those nations bearing the brunt of managing this crisis.
This is important because, whenever I see pictures of drowned refugee children, I think about the futility of dropping more bombs on Syria, which will only make worse the conditions that are already forcing millions of people to become refugees.
Instead of destructive military action, let's help the people of Syria and their neighbours in a real way. Let's take in 20,000 Syrian refugees for resettlement and give the UNHCR $150 million to help alleviate this crisis.
TO SIGN THIS PETITION, PLEASE GO TO https://www.communityrun.org/petitions/australia-show-compassion-to-the-people-of-syria?source=facebook-share-button&time=1441411481
GetUp has organised a spontaneous vigil for this Monday evening in the Sydney CBD. This vigil is being supported by other refugee advocacy groups. The GetUp article is reproduced as follows.
By now, you've probably seen the heartbreaking photo of Aylan Kurdi, a young Syrian boy found drowned on a beach in Turkey. His family's search for safety in Europe ended in tragedy, and the image has brought the world to its knees. Yet, all that Tony Abbott's had to say – all he ever seems to say – is: "stop the boats."
It was a response as disgusting as it was predictable – but for once, Tony Abbott seems to be out of step with his own party. Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, Liberal MP Craig Laundy and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have all spoken publicly about the need for Australia to 'play its part' in the worst refugee crisis since World War II.
It looks like it might be possible to push the Abbott Government into doing the right thing and commit to increasing our intake of refugees. So GetUp members are organising to make it happen.
Will you join us at a vigil on Monday, to commemorate Aylan Kurdi and make it clear that refugees are welcome in Australia? Click here to RSVP
Here are the details:
What: Light The Dark – Australians Say Welcome
Where: Hyde Park South, Sydney CBD
When: Monday 7 September, 6pm
Bring: Friends, family, colleagues, candles and homemade signs
RSVP via Facebook
Aylan's brother was named Galip, and his mother was called Rehan – their lives also ended in the waves. When Aylan's father spoke publicly for the first time of his loss, this is what he said:
"We want the world's attention on us, so that they can prevent the same from happening to others. Let this be the last."4
All around the world, people have rallied around his call and governments are responding. Overnight in the UK, public pressure forced Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to give into demands that Britain take in more Syrian refugees.5
But Australia was in the headlines for another reason. The New York Times took on Tony Abbott, decrying his refugee policies as "inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country's tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war."6 We agree, and we are demanding change.
So on Monday night, we will light a candle. We will shine a light in the dark to remember Aylan Kurdi. We will stand in solidarity with people across the world who are forced to flee across borders to safety, and in protest of Australia's abandonment of the world's most vulnerable.
On Monday night, we will say with one voice: refugees are welcome here. Will you be there? Click here to RSVP:
I hope we'll see you there,
Aurora and Sally for the GetUp team
PS: All across Australia, GetUp members will be lighting the dark for Aylan with the help of our amazing friends at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Love Makes A Way, the Refugee Council of Australia, Save the Children and Welcome to Australia. Click here to be a part of it: www.getup.org.au/syd-welcomes-refugees
LETTER TO BILL SHORTEN, RICHARD MARLES AND MARK DREYFUS
Labor for Refugees yesterday sent three resolutions to the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Richard Marles and Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus.
They deal with the AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE, the AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ALLEGIANCE TO AUSTRALIA BILL 2015 and the MAINTAINING THE GOOD ORDER OF IMMIGRATION DETENTION FACILITIES BILL 2015.
Please consider moving these motions at your Branch meeting and send a copy to to your FEC as well as to us at Labor4RefugeesNSW@gmail.com
The resolutions follow.
AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE
Labor for Refugees condemns the passage with Labor’s support, of the creation of the Australian Border Force. Labor for Refugees calls on any future Labor government to disband the Australian Border Force and distribute any law enforcement powers to the Australian Federal Police who are subject to judicial oversight and the rule of law. The Australian Border Force is a direct threat to open democracy, separation of powers and the rule of law in Australia and should not be tolerated.
AUSTRALIAN CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT ALLEGIANCE TO AUSTRALIA BILL 2015
Labor for Refugees calls on the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to oppose the proposed laws allowing for the stripping away of Australian citizenship from dual nationals. These laws in their current form are discriminatory, do not involve judicial oversight and will allow the Australian Border Force to arbitrarily determine whether or not a dual national has engaged in conduct which would involve a loss of citizenship without any supervision by the courts. In particular, Labor for Refugees is opposed to the automatic revocation of citizenship and the deemed revocation of citizenship upon events occurring without the need for any decision to be taken or any trial or judicial determination. Further, Labor for Refugees is fundamentally opposed to the wide range of offences, many of which could be quite trivial, being used as a trigger for the purported revocation of citizenship.
MAINTAINING THE GOOD ORDER OF IMMIGRATION DETENTION FACILITIES BILL 2015
Labor for Refugees is opposed to the Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities Bill 2015 and calls on the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to oppose it in all of its forms. This Bill could only be necessary to justify the type of abuse of power and excesses, that have been seen in recent times in Manus and Nauru and it could only encourage such behaviour. Labor for Refugees is deeply concerned that legislation such as this, will inevitably lead to an exacerbation of the institutional abuse which is now being identified in the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse of Children and the Labor Parliamentary Party should stand against this Bill.
Secretary L4R NSW