17 November 2016

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US deal a vital first step, but many questions still unanswered

On Sunday, the Australian Government announced that they have made a deal with the government of the United States to resettle refugees from Manus Island and Nauru. This is a crucial first step towards a resolution of the refugee crisis that successive Australian governments have created. For those who are included in the deal, they will finally be able to begin rebuilding their lives, after enduring years of atrocious treatment at the hands of our political leaders.

The people in the camps themselves have had mixed responses to the  announcement. Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist who is detained on Manus Island spoke movingly about the plans, saying that  "I feel that I am a not a human because they have used my body for propaganda to send a message to the world and say go away now". 

Also troubling is the lack of information provided so far.  The announcement raises as many questions as it answers. Tim O'Connor, Acting CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) said: “We are concerned that there are a number of glaring omissions from today’s announcement, which regard the safety of many hundreds of vulnerable people. Those people who have not received a final or positive decision regarding their protection claim remain in limbo.  Many cannot go to their home countries, and it is clear that they cannot safely remain on Manus Island or Nauru. The Australian government has a responsibility to ensure that these people are safe and are treated with compassion and respect."

Furthermore, the government has failed to provide a timeline for the resettlement plan.  Given the prolonged deplorable treatment of those people in question, they should be brought to safety with the utmost urgency. We are calling on the government to provide the full picture of this policy immediately, and to provide #SafetyForAll of the people who are on Manus Island and Nauru. Sign our petition below to make your voice heard. 
Photo credit: William Warby
Sign our petition to demand #SafetyForAll
Read more

Cruel lifetime ban bill to be decided by Senate

The Government's proposed legislation to introduce a permanent ban on entering Australia for people who have sought asylum by boat is currently under consideration with the the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is due to report on 22 November. 

The proposed Bill raises a number of important concerns, in particular:
  • Those who have family members in Australia could be permanently separated from them. 
  • This Bill punishes vulnerable people who have simply sought protection.  It targets those whom our successive governments have detained and subjected to torture and abuse.
  • The Bill continues to perpetuate insecurity among those 30 000 people who are seeking protection in Australia.  They have already endured punitive policy changes and live in an ongoing state of instability.  This adds yet another burden on their mental health. 
  • The Bill is unnecessary and unjustified. The Goverment claims that it aims to prevent illegitimate visa applications.  However, the Migration Act already contains extensive powers to this end. Moreover, this legislation is not limited to fraudulent applications, and would prevent entry even to someone who met all of the visa criteria, simply because they have had the misfortune to be detained on Nauru or Manus Island. 
  • The Bill adds to the suite of already extreme measures that breach Australia’s international legal obligations. It would breach the Refugee Convention, entrench discrimination against people from certain countries, and undermine the rule of law. 
  • The Government should be focusing on immediately ending indefinite detention, given that is has neglected its own responsibilities, only offered partial solutions, and provided no clear timeline. 
The future of this bill now lies in the hands of a few Senators. The LNP and the Greens have confirmed that they will block the bill, which means that the votes of the crossbenchers will be crucial to deciding the success or failure of this bill.  We encourage you to contact crossbench Senators and voice your opposition to the Bill. 
Photo: John Englart (Takver)/Flickr CC-by-SA 
Read our briefing here
Have your say on Australia's refugee policies
RCOA is holding its annual national consultations on Australia’s refugee and asylum policies. We are seeking feedback, suggestions and concerns from refugee communities, people seeking asylum, and individuals and organisations working with these communities.This year’s consultations will focus on four key issues: Australia’s response to international refugee needs; Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program; settlement support for all humanitarian entrants and Australia’s asylum policies.
This is an important opportunity to share your views about Australia’s policies. Your feedback will inform RCOA’s ongoing research, submissions, reports and advocacy in Australia and internationally. All information is anonymous and we will provide regular feedback on how we have used this research for our advocacy over the next year.
If you are a former refugee or a person seeking asylum, tell us your views here.
If you are a young person from a refugee background or seeking asylum, tell us your views here.
If you are not from a refugee background tell us your views here.
If you would prefer to arrange a meeting for RCOA to consult with your community in person, or to give feedback over the phone, please contact us at .
Support a fair go for people seeking asylum
The US resettlement announcement leaves important questions unanswered.  Many people who have endured torture and detention at the hands of our governments will not be included in this deal, and there is still no answer for the thousands of people who remain in limbo on temporary visas in Australia. 
Together we can keep up the pressure to make sure that all people who require our protection are brought to safety.  Please help to support our advocacy by making a one-off or regular donation below. 
Support our advocacy
Human Rights Awards 2016: Tickets on sale

This year’s awards ceremony will be a special celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Commission. Dame Quentin Bryce, former Governor-General and Sex Discrimination Commissioner, will deliver the keynote address paying special tribute to 30 years of human rights in Australia. ARIA-award winning Indigenous singer and song writer Archie Roach will be performing at the event. We are delighted that RCOA's nomination for law firm Colin Biggers & Paisley has been accepted onto the shortlist.
When: Friday 9 December, 12-3 pm
Where: The Westin, Sydney

For further enquiries, please contact (02) 9284 9779 or email .
Buy tickets
Asylum Seeker Forum
Springwood QLD, November 19
This is an opportunity to hear the latest news and views on the topic from prominent advocates. Hear from nationally acclaimed advocates including Julian Burnside AO; Dr Peter Cat; Professor Penelope Matthew and Pamela Curr.

NEMBC National Youth Media Conference
Sydney, November 25, 1.30pm
This exciting conference is a must for a must for those studying or interested in advocacy, community engagement as well as people involved in the media education, youth and multicultural sector.

Dean's Lecture: The Power of a Warm Welcome
Melbourne, November 29, 6pm
As Part of the Faculty of Science Dean’s Lecture Series, Professor Uma Kothari from the University of Manchester discusses public representations of refugees and the forging of everyday humanitarianism.

For more events or to submit an event, see our calendar.

UNHCR in-house fundraisers wanted
UNHCR is recruiting fundraisers in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. No experience necessary as training will be provided. If you have great communication skills and a full driving license, please send your resume to with ‘Face to Face Fundraising team’ in the subject line along with the answer to this question: Why do you want to work with Australia for UNHCR? .

Cultural Competence Program
SBS, Multicultural NSW and International Education Services Limited have collaborated to launch a mobile app and online training tool created to help Australian organisations navigate and maximise the benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace.

Participate in a Land of Welcome picnic
Land of Welcome's goal is to bring established Australians together with people from refugee background to learn about each other's cuisines and build friendships.

SBS National Youth Week Film Competition
SBS are inviting young people between the ages of 15-24 to share their unique story of belonging, culture and identity and have it made into a film. To enter, young people need to submit a 30 second video about their unique story of their identity. 

To see more or to post an employment opportunity, see our employment page.

National & Regional
Long wait expected for US-bound refugees
Nick Xenophon still considering lifetime ban bill
Sex assault victims must return to Manus and Nauru for chance at US resettlement
Refugee deal may be scuppered by Trump
Ambiguity over refugee deal is tough for people who have little resilience left
Afghan team pioneer a new path for women in football
Federal government urged to find solution for all people seeking asylum

When Yorkshire opened its arms to Hungary's refugees
Iranian asylum seeker enters 35th day of hunger strike
Winter is coming for tens of thousands of refugees in Greece
Catholic bishops ask Trump for humane immigration policies
Around 200 Rohingya stranded at Bangladesh border
The man who serves up little smiles in Iraq's refugee camp

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