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Letter to Acting Minister Tudge: These people have suffered enough.

 Dear Acting Minister Tudge,

Sunday 19th July marked the seventh anniversary of the Rudd government’s announcement that people arriving in Australian waters seeking asylum would be detained in offshore detention centres and would never be allowed to settle in Australia. Seven years on, twelve men have died in offshore detention, many hundreds have suffered both physical and mental torment, families have been separated and lives have been ruined. To date, the cost of this cruel policy is approaching a staggering $8 billion. There are still some 400 refugees and asylum seekers trapped on Nauru and in PNG. Many hundreds more are held in detention in Australia. Some 120 people are stuck in hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne, having been transferred to Australia for urgent medical treatment, which many of them are yet to receive.

It is clear that your government has completely abrogated its responsibilities to fulfil its obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention. These asylum seekers have committed no crime, and yet, unlike convicted criminals, they have no release date. 

Why does your government continue to inflict such terrible punishment on these people? You cannot possibly argue that the policy serves as a deterrent to other would-be asylum seekers, given that our maritime borders are carefully patrolled by the Australian navy, effectively preventing people arriving by boat.
Why does the government continue to spend enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money on a policy that is irrelevant, cruel, immoral and unlawful? Our reputation as a good global actor has been steadily eroded sine the “Stop the Boats” sloganeering of the Abbott era. It is surely time for the government to adopt a more mature and humane approach to the issue.

This shameful chapter in our history could be brought to an end within months, if the government had a moral compass and the political will. It is surely time to accept the offer of the New Zealand government to resettle up to 150 refugees annually, to resettle those that remain offshore in Australia and to release into the community the many hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees currently languishing in APODs and detention centres in Australia.
These people have suffered enough. It’s time for you to act!

Yours sincerely,
M. Griffin


A Demonstration by RAR (Rural Australians in Support of Refugees) gets the thumbs up from passing motorists.

  The item below was printed on the Bellingen Courier Sun web site

Asylum Seeker Rights
Last weekend marked the seventh anniversary of the Rudd government’s announcement that people arriving in Australian waters seeking asylum would be detained in offshore detention and would never be allowed to settle in Australia. As a result of that momentous decision, thirteen men have died in offshore detention, hundreds have suffered both physical and mental torment, families have been separated and lives have been ruined.

Refugee rights
Seven years later, some 400 men, women and children continue to be trapped by our government in PNG and Nauru.  Hundreds more are held in detention in Australia. Some 120 people are stuck in hotels in Brisbane and Melbourne, having been transferred to Australia for urgent medical treatment, which many of them have yet to receive.

Our government has completely abrogated its responsibilities to fulfil its obligations under the UN Refugee Convention.
It is shameful that our government continues to treat these innocent people with such cruel disdain. They have committed no crime, but, unlike convicted criminals, they have no release date from their pain and punishment. Across Australia at the weekend, thousands

of refugee supporters participated in peaceful demonstrations to protest at the government’s cruel intransigence.

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Our local demonstration in Bellingen on Saturday attracted more than twenty supporters, who lined Waterfall Way with their placards and banners. The support from passing motorists was overwhelmingly supportive of the action.  The organizer of the demonstration, Mike Griffin, explained: “We believe that, in spite of all the other difficulties that we are all facing at the moment, it is still important to remind the public about what the government is doing in our name. This is a cruel, inhumane and unlawful policy that the government could bring to an end within weeks, if it had the political will to do so. It should accept the New Zealand government’s offer to accept 150 refugees immediately, and commit to resettling the remaining refugees and asylum seekers by the end of the year. They have suffered enough.”


Bello Nambucca RAR newsletter 23 June 2020

Hani Abdile’s Refugee Week Story

Aged just 25, Hani is the Refugee Advice and Casework Service’s new ambassador. After leaving Somalia and coming to Australia six years ago, she has achieved so much. She has learned English, published a book of 43 short poems and started a degree in journalism. She has also received numerous awards for her community work. Here is, in brief, her story:

 “My name is Hani and I’m from Somalia, a country which has faced decades of unrest. I had no choice but to leave, so I came to Australia to seek protection. The journey was long and I spent 8 days on a boat before making it to Christmas Island. Life on Christmas Island was a mix of emotions. Sometimes it was great and I could forget the past, but other times it was a fence full of tears. It was challenging, but I had to keep going.
Eventually, I was able to leave Christmas Island and come to Sydney, where I found home, family and friends. But as I am on a temporary protection visa, it’s really hard to plan the future. I hope for the best and plan for the worst. Many people on these visas will feel the same. You never know when the day will come when your visa might be taken away.
People often ask me how they can help refugees. My answer is to listen to what they have to say. People often want to hear the tragic parts of our stories, but it’s important to acknowledge the other parts of our lives too. RACS was a place where I was heard and supported to rise. That is why I’m proud to be a RACS ambassador.

The world is full of hope. It’s full of obstacles and it’s full of great things. With kindness, we can all live in harmony.”

That is surely such a powerful and inspiring message for us all.

Nhial Deng’s Refugee Week story 
Nhial Deng, 21, fled Ethiopia 10 years ago, and has spent the last decade living in the UNHCR Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya, in a five-room compound with 18 people. Nhial explains to a UNHCR worker:

“Our village was attacked by militias. People were killed in front of me and houses were burning. We had no choice but to flee. Two of the families I arrived at Kakuma with are from my village, but everyone ran in different directions, including my own family, and I lost contact with them.
When I first came here, I had lost hope. I was frustrated. I was devasted. Now, my hopes for a brighter future are stronger than my fear of failing. I’m now doing so many things.
Firstly, running my social media marketing business StepUp.One. Most of the night I’m writing my novel and reading non-fiction and biographies of people who inspire me. By day, I’m studying information and communications technology, and media.

I’m also an education consultant for Tech Action Group Global. I manage Project Kakuma, where children from 21 primary schools in the camp learn computer skills taught by over 100 teachers worldwide through Skype.
We empower young people for when they return, to rebuild and contribute to their country.”

What an inspiration!
#refugees, #asylumseekers, #climaterefugees, #refugeeweek

UNHCR Global Trends Report
The latest UNHCR annual Global Trends Report was published last week, and it makes difficult reading. The report shows that an unprecedented 79.5 million people were displaced as of the end of 2019. UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi writes:

 “People cannot be expected to live in a state of upheaval for years on end, without a chance of going home, nor a hope of building a future where they are. We need a fundamentally new and more accepting attitude towards all who flee, coupled with a much more determined drive to unlock conflicts that go on for years and that are at the root of such immense suffering.”

Eight things you need to know about forced displacement today

  • At least 100 million people were forced to flee their homes in the past decade, seeking refuge either in or outside their countries.
  • Forced displacement has almost doubled since 2010 (41 million then vs 79.5 million now).
  • 80% of the world’s displaced people are in countries or territories affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • More than three quarters of the world’s refugees (77%) are caught up in situations of long-term displacement – for example the situation in Afghanistan, now in its fifth decade.
  • More than eight of every ten refugees (85%) are in developing countries, generally a country neighbouring the one they fled.  
  • Just five countries account for two- thirds of people displaced across borders: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.
  • Global Trends Report counts all major displaced and refugee populations, including the 5.6 million Palestine refugees who fall under the care of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.
  • The 2030 Sustainable Development commitment of “leaving no one behind” now explicitly includes refugees.
To read a summary of the report, simply Google UNHCR Global Trends report.
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World Refugee Week 2020
We could be forgiven for not noticing that last week was World Refugee Week. To some extent, we could put this down to our shared preoccupation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the hardship that it has created for communities across Australia.
  But that’s only part of the story. Where were our political leaders, of all stripes, during the past week? Did anyone pick up any references by politicians to World Refugee Week, and the importance of recognising the plight of the more than 70 million people around the world who are currently displaced by wars, internal conflicts and famine?

Where was the mainstream media during World Refugee Week?
The sad reality seems to be that we really did have to go looking for news and stories about Refugee Week. The stories are there in:

The Saturday Paper, in Eureka magazine, in the annual report from UNHCR, and from a number of refugee organisations – The Asylum Seekers Centre; the Refugee Advice and Casework Service; and The Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.

We share with you below some of the reports and stories that have been published during the past week, which highlight the daily struggles of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, and the plight of refugees around the world, displaced by war and internal conflict.