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Newsletter for 6 March 2018 Rural Australians for Refugees Bellingen and Nambucca Districts

Fundraising film screening report
Next Roadside Demo - Bellingen March 8th 2:30pm
Next market stall Bellingen Sat 17th March
Behrouz Boochani writes from Manus
TVP: Whats in a name

Hope Road film report

We were delighted with the turn out of just over sixty people who came along to support our fundraising event at the Bellingen Memorial hall on Sunday. The film was enjoyable, at times very amusing and certainly challenging in the telling of the story of Zacharia’s amazing efforts to build a school in his former village in South Sudan. We collected signatures on our open letter to Bill Shorten, signed up new supporters and sold various items of merchandise. People were very generous with their donations, which, together with the entry payments, will enable us to donate $900 to the Asylum Seekers Centre in Newtown. A big thank you to Lisa Milner for organising the event, to the loyal band of helpers who assisted in various ways to make it all work, and of course to all those who attended to help us raise the urgently-needed funds for ASC.

Roadside demonstration: Thursday  8th March in Bellingen : 2.30 to 4.00 pm

Our next roadside demonstration is this Thursday in Bellingen from 2.30 to 4.00 pm. You will find us in our usual location on Waterfall Way, opposite the entrance to the golf club and adjacent to the Yellow Shed. It would be so good to  welcome some new people to our demonstrations, which are an excellent way of reminding the public about our government’s cruel and inhumane asylum policy. We have lots of banners and placards to share, so why not consider coming to join us from time to time?

Next market stall: Saturday 17th  March at Bellingen Community Markets

Our next market stall will be at the Bellingen market on Saturday 17th March from 9.00 am until 1.30 pm. You will find us at site C29, which is near to the stage. The markets are always enjoyable events (except when it’s raining!), and they offer us a great opportunity to interact with market-goers and to enjoy one another’s company. As usual, we’ll be handing out leaflets, collecting signatures and selling our merchandise. If you can join us for an hour or two on market day, then please let Mike know in advance by emailing him at : Everyone welcome!

Behrouz Boochani writes from Manus Island 

Another thoughtful and heartbreaking article from Behrouz in this weekend’s The Saturday Paper, which some of you will no doubt have seen. He ends the article as follows: “For some people these many years of pressure have become too much. Last week two men in the camps attempted suicide. Despite the transfer to new accommodation, violence and suffering are being reproduced in new and evolving ways. It was always apparent that the small community of Lorengau does not have the capacity to  house hundreds of refugees. And it is now more clear than ever that the anguish, both for refugees and local people, will not come to an end for as long as refugees continue to be held hostage here.”
So far, it has cost the Australian taxpayers approximately $2.5 million to keep Behrouz  in offshore detention.
It is  also worth noting that the Australian government, which produces  monthly statistics on immigration detention, would have us believe that, as of the end of October 2017, there are no longer any men in detention on Manus! They attempt to deceive the public by asserting that the three centres in and around Lorengau, together with accommodation in Port Moresby, are not “detention centres” because the gates are open from dawn until dusk!

TPV : What’s in an acronym?

A number of people have recently asked about TPVs, and how they work. Briefly, these Temporary Protection Visas were reintroduced by the Abbott Government as part of a suite of measures to toughen the government’s stance on asylum seekers. They can be accessed by asylum seekers who arrived by boat between 13th August 2012 and 1st January 2014. There were some 30,000 asylum seekers  in this “legacy caseload” cohort. Following legislation in December 2014, asylum seekers  became part of a “fast track” process (it’s no such thing!)  to have their asylum claims assessed. However, they are not permitted to apply for asylum until they receive a letter from Immigration inviting them to do so. None were issued until December 2016, and then in May 2017, Minister Dutton published an edict telling these people that they had until 1st October 2017 to submit their claims. The submission involves a very long questionnaire, running to more than 40 pages, with some 100 questions, in English only. The deadline was arbitrary, vindictive and completely unnecessary,  but as a result of the heroic efforts by  refugee agencies, lawyers, interpreters and fundraisers, almost all asylum seekers met the deadline. Since then, some 14,000 have had their lengthy interview with the Immigration Department, and their claims determined, but there are still some 16,000 applications in the pipeline. The TPV  is, as the name implies, temporary, and is valid for three years. It allows access to social security and other benefits, grants permission to work, and grants access to primary and secondary education. It DOES NOT permit family reunions, and DOES NOT offer a pathway to permanent residency. At the end of the 3-year period, refugees have to start the whole process of applying for protection again.
To treat people in this way, to force them to live in a state of permanent anxiety about their future, is unimaginably cruel. There has to be a better way!
Telephone numbers: Malcolm Turnbull: (02) 6277 7700 or (02) 9327 3988.  Bill Shorten: (02) 6277 4022 or (03) 9326 1300.

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