The Refugee Council of Australia - your support is needed
Join us in being a community voice for
humane refugee policies
Dear Friends and Supporters,
When I was appointed CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) 7½ years ago, I never imagined that the situation for asylum seekers in Australia would be as dire as it is today. Last weeks decision of the Australian Government not to grant asylum to anybody for more than six months is deeply shocking. Australia has, in effect, suspended the commitments that it made when it acceded to the Refugee Convention nearly 60 years ago.
It is impossible not to feel depressed when you observe the current situation.
Australia is sending all asylum seekers who arrived by boat since July to Papua New Guinea and Nauru for long-term detention and a very uncertain future.
No Bridging Visas have been renewed since September, leaving thousands of asylum seekers who are living in the community with no lawful status and in deep anxiety.
Most asylum seekers have lost access to government-funded legal aid, meaning that many will have great difficulty articulating the reasons they need protection in a way which meets the provisions of the Migration Act.
Thousands of asylum seekers remain in detention in Australia in fear and uncertainty.
Well over 1000 asylum seekers, many from Sri Lanka, have been forcibly returned home with no opportunity at all to put their case for protection from persecution.
It is hard to believe that conditions for asylum seekers have deteriorated to such an extent but it is also impossible to believe that current policies are sustainable â€“ practically, economically or morally. Change must happen eventually but this will occur only if there are credible voices pushing tirelessly for change no matter how difficult the political environment is now
We at the Refugee Council of Australia are committed to being a tireless, credible voice for humane policies for refugees. In the 32 years of our organisation's existence, we have never been busier. In the past four months, we have established four new working groups within our membership network to focus in detail on different aspects of asylum policy i.e. detention, offshore processing, legal aid and policies for asylum seekers in the community. We are working collectively to share what little information is available on asylum seeker policies and taking every opportunity to raise our concerns as clearly and constructively as possible, with Ministers, politicians, advisers, bureaucrats and anyone who will listen.
But to remain a tireless, credible and independent voice on refugee policy, we need your help. The donations and membership fees we receive are our main source of income and are critical to us being able to continue our work. I know well that there are many worthwhile causes but I would ask to consider including the Refugee Council of Australia among the organisations you support.
With your help, in 2014 we will continue to speak out against policies we oppose but also work as constructively as possible on aspects of refugee policy where there are the greatest opportunities for government-NGO cooperation. In the past fortnight, we have completed our annual national community consultations and are now working on a detailed submission to the Government which will form the basis of our advocacy in 2014 on the make-up of Australia's refugee resettlement program and options for improving post-arrival support for refugees.
Our plans for 2014 include even greater engagement with members of refugee communities on education on refugee issues in schools and advocacy on national refugee policy and international refugee protection concerns. In this work, we have excellent advice and support from six Board members of refugee background Abdul Karim Hekmat, Nga Kwan, Ali Nur, Dr Melika Sheikh-Eldin, Bobby Whitfield and Muhama Yotham. We are fortunate also to enjoy the support of hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals around Australia who share our vision for a fairer nation.
Please support us to continue our work as a credible and independent voice on refugee policy by: