The significant change in Government policy towards people seeking asylum has led to a shift in the focus of our pastoral care mission.
The increasing number of people seeking asylum released into the community on bridging visas, has led to a growing demand for support services outside detention centres.
However, a significant number of people still remain in Australia’s detention centres and we still maintain a strong presence in Australian Immigration Detention Centres (IDCS).
Our staff and volunteers continue to visit the IDCs both on the Australian mainland and on Christmas Island.
They assist by attempting to address the refugees’ basic, practical needs which include taking them on excursions when permitted, conducting religious services, checking their psycho-social needs are addressed and, most importantly, be available should asylum seekers simply need to talk.
The core of our work exemplifies the JRS ethos of accompaniment by reassuring the people seeking asylum that they have not been forgotten, despite being held behind electric fences, and often in remote parts of Australia.
We partner in these endeavours with the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity who play a central role in implementing the organisation’s ministry of accompaniment. Through this program, we have provided thousands of asylum seekers with pastoral and psycho-social care.
JRS Australia has continued to advocate for the rights of people seeking asylum. We played a key role in the government’s decision in October 2010 to release unaccompanied minors into the community as an alternative to detention.
We lobbied for, and agreed to pilot (alongside several other key agencies) a Residential Determination Program for minors awaiting the outcome of their asylum applications. That led to the opening Australia’s first community detention house in December 2010.
Following the success of this program and its subsequent expansion, we enlarged our accommodation and casework program to include vulnerable adult men and families under a Residential Determination Project.
You can read more about how Australian advocates lobbied successfully for the implementation of community detention as a viable, humane alternative to closed detention: Community detention in Australia: a more humane way forward.
JRS has been active in supporting initiatives for lasting policy change by both national refugee agencies and the International Detention Coalition (IDC).
The IDC, established in 2006 by JRS International and other concerned organisations, works to raise public awareness of migration detention policies and practices, as well as promote greater protection and respect for the human rights of detainees.
JRS Australia and other coalition members advocate for a more limited use of immigration detention, an increase in alternatives to detention and a more humane approach to asylum seekers in general.
JRS is also a member of The Australian Coalition to End Immigration Detention of Children (ACEIDC) also known as End Child Detention Australia. The Coalition was formed in 2012 to advocate for the release of children being held in immigration detention facilities. It currently consists of 8 partners from secular, faith-based and non-government organisations who together represent over 500 organisations, in effect a civil society movement against the detention of children.