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Newsletter: MORE REFUGEES LEAVE FOR THE USA and other local RAR news

Letter from the Asylum Seekers Centre

We were pleased to receive a thank you letter last week from Frances Rush, the CEO of the ASC, following the receipt of our $2,000 donation.  Frances writes: “Thank you for your generous donation of $2,000 to the Asylum Seekers Centre. The COVID-19 pandemic is creating new challenges for everyone. Your donation will help people seeking asylum who live in our community in Sydney access the vital support they need in this challenging time.
I know that you care about people seeking asylum and will want to continue your support. Now, more than ever, we need to work together to bring everyone with us through this crisis. I would appreciate you staying in touch via our website, Facebook and Twitter to see what’s happening every day and promoting the idea that kindness is viral.”

Notwithstanding the virtual shutdown of international travel in recent times, a group of seven refugees brought to Australia from PNG on medical grounds, together with a group of 35 refugees from Port Moresby, PNG, were flown to the US last week. This brings the total number of refugees resettled in the US to more than 700. A further 65 refugees have been approved for resettlement and are awaiting transfer. There are still approximately 350 asylum seekers and refugees languishing on Nauru and in PNG, more than seven years after seeking asylum in Australia.
Once they arrive in the US, refugees receive support for three months, after which they are expected to fend for themselves. Given that more than 30 million Americans have lost their jobs in recent weeks, and that the country is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the death toll rapidly heading towards 100,000, the prospects for these refugees is less than rosy. All the indications are that their suffering is set to continue, but in a different form.
They should, of course, have been transferred to Australia, where they would have been so much safer.


The present lockdown across Australia has brought into sharp focus the huge importance of the voluntary sector. So many organisations depend on the work of armies of volunteers across the country, and the present crisis has had a significant impact on their ability to deliver vital services.
 The refugee support sector, like so many others, has been severely impacted, both as a result of volunteers being forced to stay at home, and the inability of fundraising groups like ours to raise vital funds to support the sector. The Refugee Advice and Casework Services (RACS) is a good example. They write in their most recent newsletter:

“We miss our bustling office full of legal student volunteers, who take calls from vulnerable people desperate for help from RACS. They provide almost 700 hours of critical front-end support each month!
 We miss the weekly evening “clinics” with our many pro bono lawyers. They generously give over 10,000 hours of their time each year to help us support people fleeing persecution and violence.

And we miss our other incredible volunteers, who hold trivia nights, manage stalls at community fairs, run marathons, provide office support – and help spread the word that refugees and people seeking asylum must be treated with respect. Their tireless energy in advocating for people is incredible!”

Let us hope that, for everyone’s sake, we can get back to some kind of normality soon. We’ll write to you about our tentative plans in the next newsletter.
UNHCR response to the COVID-19 pandemic
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has responded swiftly to the growing crisis in refugee communities across the world. With coronavirus now present in every country, including those that host large refugee and displaced persons, the world’s 71 million refugees and forcibly displaced people are among the most exposed and vulnerable to the threat of the virus. 
Over eighty per cent of the world’s refugees and nearly all of the world’s internally displaced people are hosted in low-to- middle- income countries, some of them hit hard by conflict, hunger, poverty and disease. Many of the forcibly displaced are in camps or densely populated urban areas, often living in inadequate conditions with limited, fragile public health, sanitation facilities and social protection systems.
In a very short space of time, UNHCR has procured and delivered to field operations more than 6.4 million face masks, 850,000 gowns, 3,600 oxygen concentrators, 640 ventilators, over 1,600 housing units and 50 hospital tents. In addition, six tonnes of personal protection equipment (PPE) and medical supplies have been airlifted and US$30 million COVID-19-related cash assistance has been distributed in 65 countries.
We are fortunate indeed to have such an effective international humanitarian body with the expertise and passion to response quickly to crises whenever and wherever they emerge.
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