The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia has called on its more than 60,000 members to take heart, and continue their efforts to assist asylum seekers and refugees, in the face of the most recent policy changes from the government.
Chief Executive Dr John Falzon said it was fitting during Mental Health Week (Oct 5 to 11) to highlight the long-lasting impacts of mandatory detention on men, women and children detained in Australia and offshore, as well as the uncertainty and poverty faced by refugees living in the community.
“Our volunteers are on the ground in every state and territory in Australia, and what they are telling us is the distress among asylum seekers and refugees is visceral,” Dr Falzon said. “We will maintain our solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees, and we call upon the government to dismantle the resettlement agreements it has entered into with other countries in an attempt to hide the issue, and instead begin the timely onshore processing of applications. Lastly, refugees must be given the right to live and work in our community alongside us.
“We are awaiting the findings of the Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and are closely following recent developments such as the Government announcement on 3rd October, 2014 that an Inquiry will be held into recent allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru,” Dr Falzon said.
National President, Anthony Thornton, said he held grave concerns about the human rights record of Cambodia and other countries Australia has entered into agreements with.
“The Society is also calling for more information about the deal the government has struck with the Palmer United Party that may see the reintroduction of TVPs and a new visa called a safe haven enterprise visa (SHEV). Neither would allow for permanent settlement in Australia, leaving refugees in a state of uncertainty about their futures, and unable to reunite with their families.
This month the St Vincent de Paul Society had devoted its quarterly publication, The Record, to the topic of embracing diversity. Contributors include high-profile refugee advocates such as Julian Burnside QC and John Menadue AO, in addition to a nine-page report from the Society’s Refugee Network.
“We urge political leaders, far removed from the miserable reality of life in detention, to read the Embracing Diversity issue of The Record. We should all try to gain insight into how tough we are making the lives of people who in all likelihood will one day become citizens of our country,” Mr Thornton said.
Download your free PDF version of the Embracing Diversity issue of The Record.