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Issue #1779      May 31, 2017

A stain on the soul

The politicising of “boat people” has been a shrinkage of the Australian soul: Tim Costello, World Vision Australia


Peter Dutton must be sacked. His lie aimed at smearing refugees on Manus Island has been exposed: His claim that refugees had led a five-year-old boy into the detention centre, implying the boy had been sexually assaulted, and that this had sparked the attack where navy officers fired on the centre.

Minister Peter Dutton.

The story has been completely discredited. Dutton has been contradicted by PNG Defence Force chief of staff Raymond Numa and Manus district police chief David Yapu, who has said there was an unrelated incident two weeks earlier where there was no suggestion there had been a sexual assault.

Dutton claims he has facts about the incident but has refused to provide any evidence or release the CCTV footage of the Good Friday event.

We demand:

  • Dutton’s sacking as Immigration Minister
  • The release of CCTV footage of the Good Friday incident on Manus Island to prove what really happened
  • That the government close the Manus detention centre, evacuate the refugees and asylum seekers and bring all the refugees and asylum seekers to Australia #BringThem Here

Petition: Endorsed by: Mums 4 Refugees, Teachers for Refugees, Doctors for refugees, Grandmothers against detention of refugee children NSW, Labor for Refugees NSW, National Tertiary Education Union NSW, People Just Like Us, Hunter Asyluim Seeker Advocacy.

On May 21, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced a new and nearly impossible deadline for people seeking asylum forced into “Fast Track”, which immediately puts thousands of people at risk of being deported back to danger.

The complex and long process affects people who arrived by sea between August 13, 2012 and December 31, 2013, who have had to wait up to four years to apply for asylum. Recently they received letters from the government demanding that they lodge their application in as little as 30 days, or risk losing income support, Medicare and non-renewal of their bridging visa.

The government is now demanding that the 7,500 remaining people submit a complex and long refugee application, 116 questions long, by October 1, 2017.

One of the people affected by this new and unfair process is Hashim.

Hashim was born in Iraq and has both physical disabilities and significant mental health conditions. In his youth, he experienced severe family violence and was forced to leave home and live on the streets as a teenager. Hashim was verbally and physically abused, stolen from and exploited while living rough and eventually escaped to Australia by boat when he was 19.

Hashim was refused his application for protection because the department did not consider the harm he faced as a homeless and disabled youth to be “serious”. His sister, who also fled to Australia, was granted protection and in an appeal to the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA), Hashim tried to explain that her application was accepted, and his should be too. He also attempted to provide additional medical evidence but the IAA refused to consider either factor as Fast Track applicants are not permitted to present “new information”.

People denied refugee status do not have access to income support, welfare or Medicare and many will no longer have the right to work in Australia while they appeal.

Hashim, who is already restricted in his capacity to work by his disability, is now no longer entitled to welfare support which will force him into destitution.

Additionally, the negative decision has caused him extreme distress and Hashim is afraid that he’ll be forced to return to Iraq where he won’t have appropriate medical care or access to welfare, or even support from his sister.

Barkhado is one of 1,562 people at risk of becoming homeless, hungry and in need of mental health services by Christmas.

Since arriving in Australia from Yemen in 2013, Barkhado and her daughters have had to wait an agonising three and a half years to apply for visa protection. Despite the incomprehensible trauma Barkhado was subject to in Somalia and Yemen before arriving in Australia, it is the ongoing uncertainty of visa protection that has taken its toll on her mental and physical health.

Since the Australian government’s introduction of the “Fast Track” policy in December 2014, we are now starting to see the human cost of this program on the 24,500 people who have been unable to fairly present their refugee case.

Barkhado and her family now have to wait another 12 months before they are invited to attend an interview and while they wait Barkhado’s family hold grave concerns for her health.

Approximately 3,000 people across the country this Christmas and twice that by Christmas 2018 – including children born in Australia – could be destitute. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) says it is already experiencing a huge increase in people presenting who are at risk of homelessness and predict 1,562 additional people will be at our doorstep by Christmas.

People seeking asylum whose applications have been rejected, won’t have access to income support, welfare and Medicare, and around half will no longer have the right to work in Australia while they appeal the decision.

“They are in absolute destitution, left to perish for up to two to three years while their refugee claims are being considered”, said the ASRC’s Kon Karapanagiotidis. “The intention of the government is to make things so unbearable that they all give up and go back home to danger.”

“The government has cut legal assistance by 85 percent and has extended the application form to 101 questions that is only available in English and requires them to accurately specify their place of residence and work and study details since birth. This is the most complex process in living memory. The system is set up for people to fail.”

The ASRC is hosting a Telethon on June 20, 2017, on World Refugee Day and is also urging the public to donate generously to the ASRC Winter Appeal before 30 June 2017 to ensure the organisation can respond to the unprecedented demand for key housing, food aid and mental health services that will support the 1,562 people like Barkhado, and at least 3,000 nationally by Christmas, who are struggling to get by under “Fast Track”.

“As an independent human rights organisation, support from our community is the only way to keep the lights on and our 30+ programs open. If we fail to raise the funds needed, many of the people in crisis will have nowhere else to turn to for help,” said Karapanagiotidis. “Families, single women and children will end up homeless on the streets, and hundreds will be at risk of going hungry and be without the vital mental health care and support they need to not lose hope and stay safe.”

Next article – South Africa – Communists convene broad front

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