Power to offer hope

JRs website details, photo of happy ThIn March, JRS worked locally, nationally, regionally and globally to empower refugees, people seeking asylum and other forcibly displaced people in Australia.

We have been driven by the sad reality that people seeking asylum need more support than ever. Until recently, there was a low level of Government income support for people awaiting a decision about their claim for protection. Now even that has been terminated – which means no chance to access casework support, or torture and trauma counselling, or help with securing housing. Unless organisations like JRS intervene.

You can help JRS bring hope where it’s needed most. Thanks to all who supported our Easter appeal. It’s not too late to donate.

Together with 94 other Australian organisations, JRS issued a joint statement urging a reversal of this decision. We also took many other actions – read this newsletter for details.

Inspiring the local community

“Everyone has a story to tell.” This was Simon Shahin’s introduction to a  presentation to Year 11 girls at Loreto Kirribilli, Sydney, on 19 March. The occasion was arranged by JRS through the  Refugee Voices/Face To Face Program.  Simon’s story showcases what support and empowerment can do for people seeking asylum.

In 2015, Simon was 20 when he and his family arrived in Sydney from Syria, desperate for a life without constant fear and deprivation. “I am looking forward to the day I can contribute to this wonderful country that welcomed me with a warm heart,” he said.

Today he is doing just that. An Electrical Engineering/Medical Science student at the University of Technology, Sydney, he is collaborating with Western Sydney University to design a Youth Employment program. Simon is a youth representative with Australian Red Cross, SSI, and MYAN (Multicultural Youth Affairs Network). Today he lives his dream to make a difference in the community, particularly by supporting refugee, asylum-seeking and CALD youth to realize their potential.

Stronger through local partnerships

On 9 March JRS entered into a new partnership with Sydney Alliance, a coalition of community organisations and groups across Sydney. The Alliance offers the opportunity to express common values and to participate in reshaping society. The Sydney Alliance vision is of a society that is fair and just and respects the contribution and dignity of every person in the community.

“We are delighted,” says JRS Director Carolina Gottardo, “to join this alliance, whose values align closely with our own.”

She adds: “JRS welcomes the chance to work in solidarity with more than 40 organisations across all sectors.”

Joining the Sydney Alliance links JRS with organisations in the area of conservation, education, religion, health service delivery, unions, support for homeless people, family support, and other services supporting people seeking asylum.

Gottardo says: “We will be working with partners in the alliance on a project aimed at changing the conversation about refugees and people seeking asylum in Sydney. This will also urge MPs across Sydney to champion progressive policy reform within their parties and in government, focused on a fairer refugee status determination process, and reintroducing permanent protection.”

The photograph captures a moment of celebration as new members, including JRS, are welcomed to  Sydney Alliance on 9 March at the premises of  Settlement Services International in Ashfield, Sydney. JRS Director Carolina Gottardo is in the front row, second from left. Behind her to the left is JRS Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Nishadh Rego.

Influence – global and national

At a global level:  In  2016 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a set of commitments to enhancing the protection of refugees and migrants. This paved the way for the development of two new Global Compacts: one on refugees, and one for safe, orderly and regular migration.

JRS Director Carolina Gottardo has been engaged at a high level in the development of the Compacts. In March she travelled to New York to participate in the second round of official Member State negotiations on the Global Compact on Migration, in the capacity of civil society observer and advocate.  Gottardo says:  “The fact that there will be a global governance framework on migration is a once in a lifetime development that should uphold the human rights of migrants.”

After her first New York meeting Gottardo attended key meetings with international experts – academics, member states, experts and practitioners – on the Global Compact on Migration and on the Global Compact on Refugees.

Gottardo reports: “Though the meetings’ participants had diverse perspectives on issues such as irregular migration, border control, and migrant and refugees rights, this is a key space to discuss the development of historic frameworks on migration and refugees and to engage with key stakeholders to advance and uphold their rights.”

“At both New York events,” Gottardo notes, “civil society continued its work towards the following inclusions in the Compacts: more recognition of the agency of women and girls in migration and of the fact that migrant and refugee women are not vulnerable per se but are affected by specific situations and negative policies; and more recognition of refugee and migrant voices in decision-making and in the development of the policies that affect their lives.”
The photograph above was taken by Gottardo as civil society observer at the Global Compact on Migration negotiations, New York, 12 March 2018.

At a national level:  JRS Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Nishadh Rego and Director Carolina Gottardo recently submitted a response to a parliamentary inquiry into the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill 2017. The Reform Bill will affect all charities and not for profit organisations, including JRS Australia. In its current form it has the potential to restrict us in our ability to advocate on key refugee policy issues that fall under our mandate. And we believe that this bill will negatively affect the quality of Australian democracy and civil society participation within it.

The submission will form part of senate debate, and we hope that politicians will utilise the issues we have raised as evidence that the bill cannot be passed in its current form.  Updates will be provided later this year on the outcome of the debate.

Learning more: good reads

A groundbreaking book on the history of Australian migration law has just been published – Making Migration Law – The Foreigner, Sovereignty, and the Case of Australia by JRS Board member Eve Lester.

This book argues that migration law in Australia is best understood as part of a tradition where the relationship between the foreigner and the sovereign has been governed by political and economic interests; race and labour have been regulated to promote these interests.

Volker Türk – UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees (Protection), UNHCR – expressed the hope that “the evidence base Making Migration Law provides will contribute to a serious reorientation from current exclusionist thinking towards policies of inclusion and diversity that guarantee freedoms from want and fear.”

“This is a book for law and policy makers as well as for judges, human rights lawyers and activists,” commented The Honourable Catherine Branson, QC, former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission and former judge of the Federal Court of Australia. “It provides the backstory so necessary for a proper understanding of Australia’s uniquely harsh response to unsolicited migration.”

The book has also been hailed as “accessible and highly engaging … [it] should be a foundational text for all students and scholars seeking to understand Australia’s migration law system” (Kim Rubenstein, Australian National University). The order form gives you access to a discount valid until December 2018.
More good reads:

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