I am writing to thank everyone who supported our latest Winter Appeal.
With the help of people like you, JRS has become one of the main providers for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. Each year we serve thousands of people that are punished by one of the world’s harshest asylum systems. But for people seeking asylum to have a dignified life, policies must change.
Right now, there is a real crisis. We want you, our friends, to be informed and to know the importance of our advocacy work.
Eighteen months ago, a young man named Aslam* walked into our JRS community space in Westmead shortly after being released from immigration detention in Sydney. Originally from Myanmar, Aslam is now stateless. His time in detention was deeply traumatic. He fears being assaulted, trapped behind high walls and suffers from chronic nightmares.
His friend committed suicide in detention. If returned to confinement, Aslam feels he may do the same.
After six years of living in limbo in Australia, Aslam has lost track of the stage of his visa application for protection. He fears contacting Home Affairs as he thinks they will re-detain him.
Back home, Aslam was a carpenter. But years without work-rights have impacted his self-confidence and mental health. In the last eighteen months, Aslam has twice attempted suicide, leaving the hospital abruptly a few days after being admitted. He fears the hospital because he believes they may contact Home Affairs, thus ensuring his re-detention. Since being released, Aslam has been homeless for long periods and left without Medicare.
JRS gives Aslam financial support for temporary shelter, clothing and fresh food. At JRS’ community lunches, Aslam says that “this is the only hot meal he would have during the day.” Aslam leaves every appointment with a “blessing” for his Caseworker. He is grateful to have someone who listens to him.
JRS is there to accompany Aslam through this exhausting journey. But his circumstances are not uncommon. We are seeing thousands of people at risk of homelessness, destitution, labour exploitation and suicide, including people with newborns, people over the age of 70, with a physical disability and mental illness.
In so many ways, Australia’s political leaders have failed Aslam, and others, by detaining them or restricting their rights for years. People are cut off from basic support services, and left entirely uncertain about their own future. Many come to JRS for help. But unfortunately, we have very limited resources and no federal government funding. Our JRS Caseworkers are often strained. Each week, they are forced to make uncomfortable decisions about who is in most desperate need of JRS’ support. “It would be daily that we would be dealing with people who are contemplating suicide,” said our JRS Casework Manager, Katie Spiroski.
To respond to this crisis, JRS has heightened our advocacy efforts. We must shift policies so that refugees and people seeking asylum can live in dignity.
This is why we are calling for an adequate safety-net for all people seeking asylum to prevent destitution and homelessness.
With a human rights approach to seeking systemic justice, JRS follows the mandate of Pope Francis to welcome, protect, promote and integrate refugees and migrants. We are independent and non-partisan. What matters to us is that people on the move are treated with dignity and the respect they deserve. JRS Australia also receives no funding from the federal government thus enabling us to hold decision-makers to account. Our priorities are determined by what the people we serve are facing, day-in, day-out.
To strengthen our advocacy work, we invite you to support JRS in pursuing an agenda of positive reform. With your help, JRS can continue to facilitate refugees and people seeking asylum to speak directly to our politicians so they understand how their policies impact human lives. With you, we can also continue mobilising community support for humane policies. No amount is too small to help Australia to be a better place for generations to come.
“A single individual is enough for hope to exist, & that individual can be you.” Pope Francis.
On behalf of the people we serve, we thank you for walking with us in our mission to accompany, serve and advocate for the dignified living of refugees and people seeking asylum.
Thank you for your ongoing support,