I am writing to you about the recent statement made by the Minister for Immigration that people seeking asylum who arrived by boat need to lodge their protection claims by 1st October 2017.
It concerns me that the discussion surrounding this issue depicts people seeking asylum as taking advantage of the welfare system and as unwilling to engage with the process to be granted refugee status in Australia.
This is simply untrue.
In reality, people have been waiting in limbo for years, as they were initially not allowed the right to work and were legally barred from applying for protection. At the same time, the pro bono legal services that could have assisted people to lodge, had their government funding taken away. This is why we’re asking for your help.
Thanks to your previous support, JRS Australia has been able to provide on the ground assistance to people seeking asylum, as well as advocate for policy change on their behalf. It’s because of you, that we have been able to continue our work and assist over 3500 people seeking asylum in the past year.
However, at this critical time, when we’re seeing unrelenting conflict around the world, the largest numbers of displaced people in history, and when we’re faced with government policy that impacts on the safety of the most vulnerable people in our community, it’s no wonder that many of those we serve are being pushed to breaking point.
As a frontline organisation, we at JRS are working with many women, men and children seeking asylum, and we can see the terrible effects these measures are having on people most at-risk in our society.
Just the other day at a legal support clinic we hosted in conjunction with Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS), we met a young man seeking asylum named Kasim*.
Kasim has been waiting 4 years to be legally allowed to lodge his application for protection.
Forced to flee Iraq because of war and direct persecution, Kasim arrived to Australia by boat in 2013.
However, instead of being welcomed by the country he thought would finally grant him safety, Kasim was sent to Christmas Island Detention Centre. So began the next few years of his life, as Kasim spent time in onshore detention centres and in community detention without work rights.
Once Kasim was finally granted work rights, he began finding jobs as a labourer, wanting to meaningfully contribute to his new community and support himself financially.
“I’m working, I’m supporting myself, I just need your help to tell my story,” said Kasim.
Now, with the Minister for Immigration’s announcement, Kasim is facing destitution if his work rights are taken away, and worse, the threat of deportation if he fails to lodge his application on time.
“I can not go back to detention. Please don’t let them send me back to detention,” said Kasim.
There is so much panic and fear among the people JRS supports. The threat of losing income support, work rights, Medicare and even the right to seek asylum, is sending already vulnerable people, like Kasim, into further despair and hopelessness.
Your help will allow us to continue providing direct support to people seeking asylum, such as case workers, access to legal assistance, emergency relief payments and food bank.
Thank you for your ongoing support,
P.P.S. Remember, it’s tax time and your generous gift is eligible for an official tax receipt.
*name has been changed to protect identity