Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Government must drop three new anti-refugee Bills

The Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) joins with other refugee supporters in calling on the federal government to abandon three pieces of proposed legislation before parliament.

As the world watches in horror as the humanitarian crisis unfolds in Afghanistan, the Australian government is being asked to demonstrate more compassion not less. These Bills seem at odds with current community expectations.

The Bills are an attempt to revive previously discredited measures and impose an even harsher and inequitable regime on refugees and asylum-seekers. The Bills have nothing to do with good governance and are set to drive people already in mental distress even further into despair.

As the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has rightly said: “The suite of Bills targets refugees, people seeking asylum and other migrants who are in immigration detention or facing visa cancellation or refusal.

“If passed, these Bills would cause more people to be held in indefinite detention, potentially for the rest of their lives, or to be deported to countries where they face serious harm or have little connection to, with many also facing permanent separation from their Australian spouses and children.”

The three Bills are:

  • The Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention) Bill 2020 – which will, if passed, allow the Minister to prevent refugees and people seeking asylum from having everyday items, such as mobile phones, while in detention.
  • The Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019 – which will introduce arbitrary and unreasonably low thresholds for the Minster to revoke or refuse visas for people based on the maximum possible sentence they could receive, rather than the sentence they actually received.
  • The Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening Information Provisions) Bill 2020 – which will allow the Minister to use secret information to revoke the visas of refugees and people seeking asylum.

RAC (Vic) believes that the current suite of laws governing refugees and asylum-seekers is already draconian and that these Bills represent another severe attack on human rights.

In particular, RAC acknowledges the enormous part that access to a mobile phone plays for those in detention – to contact friends, family and lawyers, and to monitor and record potential breaches of their rights by the detention system.

At a time when the government should be focused on major issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the dangers posed by global warming, and poverty, introducing these new Bills designed to harm some of the most vulnerable in our society is petty, cruel and capricious.

RAC calls on the ALP, Greens and cross-bench MPs and senators to oppose these new Bills with the utmost vigour.

We pledge to campaign against them with all the COVID-safe measures at our disposal.

Afghanistan refugee crisis: five urgent demands

In recognition of the immediate and urgent crisis confronting Afghan asylum-seekers and refugees and their families – in Afghanistan, in Australia and elsewhere in the world (in particular in Indonesia), RAC Vic calls on the Australian government to:

(i) immediately grant permanent visas to all Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers on temporary protection and bridging visas;

(ii) to release, and grant visas to Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers in detention and similarly bring to Australia and grant visas to any Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru and in PNG;

(iii) to immediately begin the processing, and organise the urgent transport necessary to bring the families of all Afghan refugees to Australia;

(iv) to end Australia’s ban on accepting Afghan refugees from Indonesia;

(v) to immediately create a special category intake of at least 20,000 Afghan refugees, over and above the annual humanitarian intake, to include all those currently in Indonesia.

(These demands were adopted unanimously by an online forum of 220 people organised by RAC Sydney and supported by RAC Vic on 16 August 2021.)

Escape from Manus

Escape from Manus by Jaivet Ealom is an extraordinary document of growing up under military oppression in Burma as a Rohingya, managing to get an education, having to flee including two perilous boat journeys, then the iron-clad embrace of Christmas Island, a few wretched years closely observing the Manus “Regional Processing Centre” depredations, and a nail-biting escape.  

Reading it gives better comprehension of the regional depredation and corruption inherent in Australia’s offshore “detention” system, and engenders further respect for those brave refugees relegated to it.  

Through Jaivet’s eyes we see a rotten system created by Australia’s government held together by greed, abuse of power, secrecy and propaganda.  

Jaivet has written a wonderful, important, powerful book that will live for years and hopefully help dismantle this blight on our nation.

Jane Touzeau

Hear Jaivet speak at our online forum on 26 September.

Find the book here.

Rally for refugees

Join these events, demanding freedom for refugees and permanent protection.

The Power of Protest

Wednesday 15 September at 6.30pm online

An online forum hosted by the Wheeler Centre. Speakers: Celeste Liddle, Chris Breen, Maria O’Sullivan and Farhad Bandesh.

Facebook event.

Afghans in limbo in Indonesia: End Australia’s refugee ban

Monday 20 September at 6.30pm on Zoom

Speakers include Ali Froghi – Afghan refugee in Indonesia & videographer capturing the plight of Hazara refugees stuck in limbo there, and Nazir Yousafi – Secretary of the Hazara Shamama Association

Facebook event.

ESCAPE FROM MANUS – Jaivet Ealom speaks on his new book

Sunday 26 September at 11am on Zoom

Jaivet, who is now living in Canada, will speak about the rotten offshore detention system created by Australia’s government, his determination not to be subject to it, and his incredible escape from it.

Facebook event.

POSTPONED Vigil: Eight years too long, free the refugees

New date to be set, at the Park hotel-prison, 701 Swanston Street, Carlton

We’ll be gathering outside the Park hotel-prison to mark the eighth anniversary of cruel, mandatory detention for refugees arriving by boat.

Facebook event.

POSTPONED: Free the Medevac refugees – union solidarity rally

New date to be set, at the Park hotel-prison, 701 Swanston Street, Carlton

Organised by Unionists for Refugees and supported by RAC and the Victorian Trades Hall Council.

Facebook event.