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Refugee Council Letter to Prime Minister Albanese


23 May 2022

Hon. Anthony Albanese MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House

Dear Mr Albanese,

On behalf of the Refugee Council of Australia, I would like to congratulate you on the Labor Party’s election victory on Saturday and your appointment today as Prime Minister. Your pledge on election night to work towards building a nation in which no one is left behind and no one is held back gives greater hope to many Australians that we can collectively work towards building a fairer and more compassionate society.

The past decade has been a tough time for many people who have sought refugee protection in Australia. This is particularly so for the 1,380 people still struggling under Australia’s offshore processing policy, the 19,000 refugees subject to temporary protection, the 30,000 people left with no safety net while they wait interminably for an initial decision on their application for onshore protection and the countless Australians of refugee background who remain separated from close family members, including partners and children.
We particularly look forward to your government implementing its pledge to abolish temporary protection as quickly as possible, to enable the 19,000 refugees affected by this policy to fully embrace the opportunity to make a life-long contribution to Australia. This policy has been particularly unjust, needlessly punishing hard-working people by denying them the certainty of permanent protection from persecution in their home country and preventing them from reuniting with separated family members.

While we strongly disagree with Labor’s offshore processing policy, we will work as hard as possible – as we have done with the previous government – to support practical solutions for the 1,380 people still suffering under this policy after nine years. While we applaud the Morrison Government’s long-delayed signing of the resettlement deal with New Zealand and the resettlement arrangement with the United States, we remain concerned that more than 500 people will be left behind when all resettlement options currently available are exhausted. For our part, we have worked since 2019 with organisations in Canada to raise $4.3 million to support sponsorship applications for 172 refugees and 144 separated family members, providing a pathway for refugees in offshore processing excluded from the US process. Finding answers for all people affected by this damaging policy will take a great deal of effort and considerable flexibility.

We also look forward to your government implementing the Labor Party’s platform to expand the Refugee and Humanitarian Program progressively to 27,000 places per year and build a community sponsorship program of 5,000 places. The recent cuts to the Humanitarian Program and the failure to restore 13,400 visas not issued over the previous two financial years have come at a time when resettlement as a solution for refugees is more needed than ever before. We applauded the Morrison Government’s decisions in March to offer 16,500 additional places over four years for refugees from Afghanistan and to enable Ukrainian citizens to access three years of humanitarian protection in Australia while they wait to see whether safe return will be possible in the near future. These changes were welcome but we know that Australia is well placed to make a more significant contribution to solutions for refugees through resettlement. Over the past 75 years, we have also seen how our important humanitarian contribution through refugee resettlement has benefited our nation in the long term, through the life-long contributions of the 900,000 refugees given new opportunities in Australia.

Our work in refugee resettlement must be backed up by much more effective engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond in efforts to improve the protection of refugees in countries where they first seek protection. The Gillard Government began to expand aspects of this important foreign policy work in response to recommendations of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers in 2012 and the lobbying of our organisation and others. Unfortunately, most of this work ceased with the change of government in 2013. The need now is even more pressing to support the work of UNHCR and to engage governments in the region on achievable and incremental steps to enable refugees to live, work and study legally. These basic protection options are essential to providing alternatives to refugees otherwise forced to seek safety through risky and irregular journeys. Our organisation’s close working relationships with NGOs and refugee-led organisations across Asia-Pacific will enable us to do much to assist government efforts to improve constructive regional engagement.

Attention must also be paid to lengthy delays in Australia’s onshore protection process – both the initial decisions by the Department of Home Affairs and review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal – and the destitution experienced by many people waiting for outcomes as a result of massive cuts to assistance through the Status Resolution Support Services program. Australia’s immigration detention system also needs urgent review. Since Labor was last in office, the average time spent in detention has blown out, from less than 100 days in mid-2013 to 687 days as at January 2022.

The Refugee Council of Australia and our many members and supporters look forward to working with you and members of your team on these and other issues. There is much to be done but the vision you have outlined gives us hope that much can be achieved so that people seeking safety in Australia are not left behind or held back.

Yours faithfully,
Paul Power
Chief Executive Officer


Vote To End the Cruelty to Refugees

The Liberal/National Government has now detained refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, in PNG and in various places of detention in Australia for just on 9 years. There have been some 14 deaths of detainees mostly by suicide, in Nauru and New Guinea over these years and many more of these people are suffering from serious long term mental health issues

The Government spends more than $4 million per refugee per year to keep 112 refugees out of sight and out of mind on the tiny island of Nauru.  That’s more than half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money every year!

As the federal election approaches the Government has announced a belated agreement to transfer 450 refugees over 3 years for settlement in New Zealand. The NZ offer has been on the table since 2013. These places offered by New Zealand are not nearly sufficient to assist the 1200 refugees currently requiring a solution to their continuing uncertainty and despair.

These people have committed no crime. They have made often terrifyingly dangerous journeys to escape war, conflict, persecution and torture in their home countries and then simply exercised their legal rights under the Refugee Convention to seek asylum in Australia.

These people should be released into the community where they can live, work, pay taxes and contribute their skills and expertise to our country

At the upcoming election the Coalition parties must be held to account for this expensive, cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees. The Labor Party has also never raised any serious concerns about these draconian Government policies.

At the next election I urge voters to vote for a candidate who will support-

A government that treats asylum seekers and refugees with fairness and humanity

A government which declares  that it will end the mandatory detention of people seeking safety

A government that offers permanent protection to genuine refugees

A government that supports refugees and helps them to rebuild their lives and contribute to our society


Paul Bartholomew

Boambee East


That is why I will vote for Caz Heise in the federal election on 21st May

 If not now, when?

Like so many people, I have become increasingly dismayed at what passes for political leadership and governance in our federal parliament. I’m shocked by the lack of integrity, I despair about the lack of serious action on climate change, and I’m angry about the way taxpayers’ money is so readily thrown around to shore up votes in Coalition and marginal seats.  I’m also concerned about growing wealth inequality, where the rich get richer, and more and more people sink into poverty and can’t afford even to rent a home. It’s disgraceful to see so much taxpayers’ money being thrown at wealthy private schools, whilst the public schools, which do all the heavy lifting, are seeing their funding reduced in real terms year on year. The Coalition clearly governs for the few, not the many, with the agenda set by the fossil fuels industry and other vested interests.  And finally, I am utterly dismayed by the government’s cruel and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, who have suffered so much torment under this government.

We need a serious reset in the way we do politics in this country. We need a government, and we need parliamentarians, who strive to represent the many, not the few. Parliamentarians who work on behalf of their constituents, rather than for the big donors and lobbyists who dictate the policies of the major parties.

That is why I will vote for Caz Heise in the federal election on 21st May. She is a beacon of hopea person of real integrity, compassion and intelligence. She has a keen grasp of the issues that matter to the people of Cowper, and she is an excellent listener and communicator. I know that she will work tirelessly in Canberra for the people of Cowper and for a fairer and better Australia.

Mike Griffin

Valla Beach


The Refugee Council of Australia requests the following ....

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The government has called the 2022 Federal Election, and we're using this critical time to push for change for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. 

We're hoping you can help us. 

We're trying to have conversations with as many election candidates as we can, and we’re hoping you can support our work.   

This will build on the momentum created by the recent, positive announcements for refugees – the New Zealand deal finally going ahead, 16,500 places for people from Afghanistan, humanitarian visas for people from Ukraine, and people released from detention.   

We've put together resources for you to use: 

a) Our recommended top three priorities of the policy change we’d like to see from the new government THIS year;

b) Our updated Platform for Change, which outlines the changes we’d like to see made in the next term of government; and

c) An analysis of the three main parties policies measured against these recommendations.  

Can you raise the top three policy priorities with your local candidates?  

Here’s a three-step process to raise these issues – and it will take just 15 minutes.  

Step 1:  

Use this spreadsheet to find the contact details of the candidates in your electorate. Each electorate has been linked to the ABC's Electorates website which provides in-depth information about each seat. If you don't know it already, you can find your electorate here

Identify the two or three candidates in your electorate who are the most serious contenders or most likely to influence the outcome – generally the sitting MP or candidate for the party which holds the seat, other candidate/s for the major parties (Coalition and Labor), any high-profile or active Independent candidates and, in some seats, a candidate from another party which has previously attracted at least 20% of the vote in that electorate (see 2019 results on ABC's Electorates website).  

Step 2:  

Get in touch with the key candidates in one (or all three) of the following ways   

  • Call their office and request a meeting – citing our three priorities as the topic for discussion  
  • Attend an event they’ll be at (you can check what these are on their website)   
  • Email their office, highlighting the importance of the three priorities. Please write the email in your own words but here is some text you could consider adapting

Step 3:  

  • If you hear back from a candidate or have a conversation with them, please let us know – it'll be a great help for our future campaigning. Email us here  

We’ve also put together a Q&A document to help these conversations. We hope as many of you as possible can follow these actions to ensure we can continue this positive momentum at such a critical time.   

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions by emailing our Campaigns Officer.   

Thank you for your ongoing support, we cannot do our work without it.  

Warm regards,  

Paul Power  
CEO Refugee Council of Australia


Refugee Council of Australia · Australia · ABN: 87 956 673 083
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Refugee Council of Australia