31 October 2016: Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce says Australian Government bid to enshrine ban on refugees in law will create further “fear, uncertainty and trauma” by David Adams, Sight Magazine. Christian refugee advocates have said proposed laws aimed at banning refugees permanently from ever obtaining a visa to Australia will “create further fear, uncertainty and trauma” among those who have ever been transferred to the regional processing centres on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. Read the full story…
Press Release: Bans on refugees to be enshrined in bad and sad legislation, and call on the Senate to block it
30 October 2016: New laws, to be rushed into parliament when MPs return to Canberra next week, mean that many people who have been found to be refugees will be banned from ever obtaining an Australian visa of any kind, even as a tourist.
The legislation will create further fear, uncertainty and trauma to anyone who has ever been transferred to a regional processing centre.
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, which represents over 930 Christian entities around Australia, said today that “the Government clearly has no plan. Mr Turnbull has just not been able to find a solution, an alternative nor a long term plan. Introducing legislation to keep people locked up forever will never be a solution that the Christian members of the Taskforce will accept”.
She said that “there ARE alternatives, and we’ll be releasing a package of policy options, which the government has failed to find itself, in the same week as this draconian legislation will be introduced into the House of Representatives”.
She also said that “this legislation will drastically affect 310 people seeking asylum that I speak to regularly, here in Melbourne and in suburbs around Australia, who are largely young families with small children.
The legislation is called The Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill and Christians around Australia will be called to action to prevent the passage of this bill and to support alternatives.
She said that “The Government’s policy of offshore detention is in disarray – they need to find a resolution for people who are withering away in the offshore camps, but the government can only come up with punitive plans to distract from the fact that they don’t have a plan, they don’t know what they are doing.”
“In the meantime, churches around Australia will call on their elected Senators to block this legislation.”
Media Inquiries and comment:
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739
21 September 2016: The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT) is highly disappointed with the much anticipated pledge that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull took to the Obama Summit.
Speaking from Thailand today, Executive Officer Ms Misha Coleman, said: “There had been a great deal of anticipation here in Bangkok yesterday amongst the hundreds of refugee organisations I’m here working with. This morning however, there is clearly nothing to celebrate”.
Ms Coleman said: “As demonstrated by figures from AHRC, Australia’s aid to the major countries of refugee origin and asylum in the Asia-Pacific region has been slashed. Additionally, since 2012/2012, the government’s overall aid budget has been slashed by $1.22 billion. So while of course the pledge today of $130 million is welcomed, it does little to redress the cuts that have made over recent years”.
Source: AHRC, Pathways to protection: a human rights-based response to the flight of asylum seekers by sea, 2016, p.58.
She said “the additional announcement that the government would not cut its commitment to provide 18,750 refugee resettlement places, pales in comparison to the new pledges that other countries made at the Summit”.
Acting Chair of the Taskforce, Rev’d Mark Riessen, said that “we had hoped that Mr Turnbull would use the world stage in New York to announce an end to the hell that people are enduring in Nauru and in Manus Province, and would bring them here. Despite a series of highly credible reports being released over recent weeks, which outline alternatives and other options for the Government to take, unfortunately the cruel attempt to cover up Government-sanctioned abuse just continues.”
Media contact: Misha Coleman 0428 399 739
21 September 2016: Today’s announcement by the Australian government at the Obama Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis doesn’t address the future of around 2000 people currently languishing in offshore camps on Manus Island and Nauru said the Human Rights Law Centre, Getup and the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb said that while the Australian government’s pledge to keep the planned 2018 increase in the refugee resettlement intake to 18,750 per year and offer $130 million in increased financial assistance is a step forward, “showing decency to one person seeking asylum doesn’t justify or require cruelty to another.”
“Right now there are 2000 innocent people in our care who are suffering. I’ve sat face to face with women who have been sexually assaulted on Nauru. I’ve seen a man in our care collapse unconscious after being beaten on Manus. I’ve spoken with families desperate to begin rebuilding their lives in safety but who still languish on a painful road to nowhere after three years. Last night’s announcement doesn’t end their suffering.”
Matthew Phillips, GetUp Human Rights Director, said the Australian government has been humiliated at an international summit to help people fleeing conflict by it’s cruel policy of indefinite detention.
“Today’s announcement is a bad attempt at a cover-up. No other country in the world has deliberately and illegally held children, women and men for years on tiny remote island camps. It’s shameful that the PM can’t seem to resolve that situation and is instead making promises about 2018.” said Mr Phillips.
Mr Webb added, “Deliberate cruelty to innocent people is fundamentally wrong. Maintaining the planned intake and signing a cheque doesn’t make it right.”
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said there are safe, viable and humane alternatives.
“We should be working with the UN and countries in our region to develop safe and orderly pathways to protection for people who need to seek it,” said Ms Coleman.
HRLC, Getup and ACRT said that after three years of fear, violence and limbo, it’s time to bring the men, women and children languishing on Nauru and Manus back to Australia to begin rebuilding their lives, just like the other people we will now be welcoming.
Mr Webb said,“Ultimately, whatever the policy challenge, deliberate cruelty to innocent people is never the solution.”
From the Josephite Justice Office. On this day, when we are marking 150 years of the life and work of the Sisters of St Joseph, we are united in our concern for those pushed to the edge of our society at this time. Together with many Australians, we join in urging the Government and the Opposition to urgently host a National Summit to consider alternative approaches to our current asylum seeker policy.
There is no doubt that Australia’s present policy regarding the global issue of people seeking safety is unsustainable, unsafe, and does not offer protection to people who need it. In the absence of alternatives being promulgated by either government or the opposition, or by relevant government departments, a new approach is imperative.
We strongly believe that there are credible and innovative international law-compliant alternatives to current policy.
For this reason, we commit ourselves to working with those organisations with expertise and experience in the refugee and asylum seeker sector, who have been developing viable alternatives. We believe that a bi-partisan commitment by both major Parties will enable all of us to focus debate on the possibilities of a better way. A national summit, established by a consensus of all Parties, will enable us to explore and chart viable alternatives, which are compliant with international law and human rights.
In the short-term, we urge the Government to consider granting a one-off amnesty to refugees currently on Nauru and Manus Island. This could be the first step in a process, which will enable justice to be enacted, both for those seeking asylum and for us as Australians.
Josephite Justice Office
PO Box 1508 North Sydney NSW 2059
Media Release: Catholic Orders from across Australia call for Amnesty for the people in detention camps saying #BringThemHere!
AUGUST 18 2016: Sisters from Catholic religious orders across Australia will today sign a statement calling on the Prime Minister to issue an amnesty for those suffering intolerable cruelty in Australia’s offshore detention camps, and back a call for a Summit on Solutions to take the politics out of refugee policy.
Sr Monica Cavanagh, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph, said that the celebration of 150 years of the life and work of Saint Mary Mackillop, being celebrated here in Sydney this week, motivated Catholic Orders to do what Sister Mary would have done, which is to “ask that the people seeking asylum on Manus Island and Nauru, be brought here to Australia”.
“In the context of the imminent closure of the Manus camp – announced yesterday by the PNG and Australian Government – the men on Manus must be granted this amnesty and brought to Australia, not to some other temporary or unsafe context”, Sr Monica said.
Speaking at Mary Mackillop Place in Sydney today, Sr Monica said “after people are brought here to safety, we fully support the call for a Summit on Solutions, so that the best alternatives can be thrashed out in a bipartisan way”.
“We are making a personal appeal to Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten: please put human dignity above politics by agreeing to work together.”
Also speaking at the celebrations for Saint Mary Mackillop today, Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, said that: “we don’t accept the argument that it’s impossible to bring people here for fear of the people smuggling trade re-starting.
“We can’t wait for more children to be abused in the offshore camps for alternatives to be put in place. That’s why Catholic Sisters from across Australia are calling for a one-off amnesty for people in the offshore centres-this is less than 2000 people!”
“Most of these people have already been found to be refugees. They have endured enough. Let’s empty the camps.”
“We also don’t accept that Australia has to turn people seeking asylum back to the countries from which they’ve fled, in order to have a sound policy framework.
“There are alternative solutions that are being ignored because of partisan debates. We need a Summit of Solution now to force our leaders to put safety above politics.
Photos available on request.
Media Inquiries and comment:
Misha Coleman, Executive Officer, Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739
Peter Stahel (Essential Media) 0408 584 439
AUGUST 10 2016: The Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce says the Nauru files released today corroborate previous allegations submitted to the government and the Moss Review as far back as 2014.
Misha Coleman, Executive Director of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce: “The files released today corroborate the allegations made in letters from detainees which were smuggled out of the Nauru camp and given to the Taskforce in 2014.
“These were allegations that were completely ignored. They were a horrific red flag to the scale of abuse and the government did nothing. The government knew. It then did nothing to prevent the ongoing daily acts of abuse committed on children and women especially. The letters detailed a range of abuse cases including a rape and an alleged cover-up of that rape – it’s clear from the files released today that the situation has sunk to unholy depths.”
At the time, the Taskforce Chair called for a Royal Commission into the systemic and gross abuse of children, mums and dads occurring every day in these camps are funded by Australian taxpayers. Taskforce Chair, The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt:
“We had called for a Royal Commission into the offshore camps after some of the key issues raised in the report were referred back to the Nauruan police, in which we have no confidence whatsoever.
“Today however, we’re calling on the Australian Government to immediately bring these innocent people from Nauru, here to Australia, and then to immediately establish a Royal Commission into these sorry offshore detention camps. In the same way that the government reacted swiftly and correctly to the expose of the abuse at Dondale Detention Centre, we call on the government to react swiftly and bring people here to Australia, out of harm’s way.”
Available for interview:
Rev’d Peter Catt: 0404 052 494
Misha Coleman: 0428 399 739
Here are some features of the minor party Senate result (with thanks to Anglicare SQ SRC)
· Victoria: Derryn Hinch (Justice Party) gained a seat, and Ricky Muir lost his – http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/08-03e.htm
· Queensland: One Nation has 2 seats confirmed and Glen Lazarus (formerly Palmer United) lost his seat – http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/08-04e.htm
· New South Wales: One Nation won a new seat and David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrat) retained his- http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/08a-04e.htm
· South Australia: 3 Nick Xenophon Senate seats won and Bob Day (Family First) retained his seat – http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/08-02e.htm
· Western Australia: One Nation has effectively won the Palmer seat (Dio Wang) – http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/08-01e.htm
· Tasmania: Jacqui Lambie retained her seat and progressive ALP Senator Lisa Singh retained her seat – http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/07a-27e.htm
· Northern Territory – one ALP and one Coalition Senator http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/07-25e.htm
· ACT: one ALP and one Coalition Sneator http://www.aec.gov.au/media/media-releases/2016/08a-01e.htm
Nick Xenaphon Team (NXT)
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
- Acknowledges boat turn backs as bipartisan approach, but should be matched by 27,000 humanitarian intake.
- Voted for the majority of the regressive changes made to the Migration Act introduce by Minister Scott Morrison.
- Priority given to timely resettlement working with UNHCR, and focus on regional solutions.
- Depending on the claim process, individuals must either be returned to their country of origin where safe and practical to do so, or settled in another country with the UNHCR.
- Government must ensure the safety and security of refugees in offshore processing centres, including timely health and mental health care.
- International agencies such as the UNHCR, Red Cross and media organisations should have access to any detention centres.
- Whistleblowers must be protected for speaking out.
- Restore the $7.6b of aid funding cut by the Australian government in the 2014 budget.
- Work towards a foreign aid budget that represents 0.7% of Gross National Income, in line with commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development goals.
- Continue to encourage orderly immigration to Australia, in particular amongst younger skilled families and investors.
- A special category of visa should be created to encourage investors to settle in areas of low population and economic growth.
Unauthorized arrivals and refugees
- We should provide sanctuary for people fleeing political oppression and persecution.
- All arrivals subject to temporary detention for preliminary health and security checks. Those refused admission on health or security grounds will be deported.
- After initial checks people can then apply for PR either by paying the immigration fee, being awarded an immigration scholarship or loan, or by applying for admission on humanitarian grounds as a refugee.
- The process of determining refugee status will be limited to a tribunal of first instance and a single court of appeal. Both will be open to the public unless closed for a reason.
- While awaiting a decision, unauthorized arrivals can apply for temporary release subject to payment of bail equivalent to the immigration tariff plus bail-like reporting conditions. Applicants will be permitted to work. Anyone can offer to post bail.
- Aid to foreign countries by the Australian government, other than short-term humanitarian relief following natural disasters, should cease.
- Donations by private individuals to foreign aid projects should neither be encouraged nor discouraged by the government.
- Greater transparency for organisations that accept donations for the purposes of providing aid
- Negotiate Free Immigration Agreements (FIAs) with compatible countries to allow unrestricted movement of citizens between those countries.
- Replace the current points-based quota system with a tariff system where immigrants pay for the right to become a permanent resident (PR) in Australia.
- No eligibility for welfare for PRs except where reciprocal arrangements have been established through a FIA.
- Increase barriers to citizenship so Australia can sustain a high level of immigration.
- Applicants for citizenship should have resided in Australia for at least 10 years, passed a citizenship test (in English), provide evidence of likely continued employment (or means to support themselves), links to the Australian community and no criminal record.
- Children born in Australia to Australian PRs will be Australian citizens automatically.
- Aid and relief payments from donor countries are, and will remain, important mechanisms for funding health, education, housing and development initiatives. But the primary focus must be on the sustainable relief of poverty best achieved through tariff reductions, free trade agreements and stable institutions.
- Australia should set a target of committing 1% of its Gross National Income (GNI) to foreign aid. This is almost four times our current commitment, which plummeted to 0.27% in 2014.
- Where foreign aid is provided, it is preferable it is provided to non-government organisations providing relief work on the ground, rather than foreign governments.
- Support an end to exploitation by people smugglers, an enterprise condemning asylum seekers to death by drowning at sea. Australia must support and invest in a safer migration system that ensures, in particular, that two types of migrant are accepted into Australia in increasing number.
- Economic migrants who can provide the skills Australia needs to meet its future challenges
- Persecuted people who, beyond reasonable doubt, face death or serious harm if they return to their home countries, but who are also people who will integrate into Australian society and respect & support Australia’s Christian heritage and values.
- Support calls to reasonably increase the annual refugee intake, subject to the two types above (including plan by the Liberal National Party to increase to 18,750 by 2018/19).
Jacqui Lambie Network
- No refugee specific policy.
- Halve the Foreign Aid Budget and redirect to Higher Education (from .6% to 1% of GDP)
Illegal immigration and asylum seekers
- Anyone arriving without paperwork immediately denied entry and sent back to their last known port before arrival or their homeland.
- People smuggling to carry a minimum jail term of 10 years, served in an Indonesian prison. The crew on the boats to do a 2 year jail term in Indonesia.
- Refugees to be granted a temporary protection visa to be reviewed every 2 years. Depending on circumstances, sent back to their homeland if no longer under threat.
- Family reunion will not be available to those granted refugees status until such time that they may be granted permission to apply for Australian citizenship.
- All refugees must clear a health check as required by law.
- Terminate being a signatory to the outdated 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention
- Balanced, zero net immigration (subject to review depending on economic conditions)
- An immediate review of our immigration is necessary until the economy has recovered,
- A five-year wait for new migrants to become Australian citizens. English is a requirement for citizenship. If they commit a criminal offence that carries with it a jail term of 1 year, they would automatically be denied citizenship and deported.
- Social security would not be available for new migrants for a period of five years.
- Before arrival, migrants would be required to pass a complete and thorough health check before acceptance is granted, including checks for AIDS, Hepatitis and TB.
Other related areas:
- Call for a Royal Commission into Islam
- Abolish multiculturalism
- Ban halal
Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
- No specific or related policy
- Hinch personally supports boat turn backs, but has publically defended Syrian refugees and disparaged the Cambodian arrangement.