Stand up in support of African refugees who have resettled in Australia. That’s the clarion message 60 of Australia’s leading human rights and refugee advocates, religious groups and settlement service providers have voiced in a half-page open letter to Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews in today’s The Australian.
In the letter the coalition stressed that decisions regarding Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program should not be made on the basis of perceptions or assumptions about a group’s ability to integrate. For over a decade, Australia has provided safe haven to thousands of refugees feeling persecution in African countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone. Many have survived torture and trauma but have embraced their new home despite the many challenges that face them on arrival, including separation from family and loved ones overseas.
’We call on all Australian politicians to continue to give a ‘fair go’, not just to our newest and most vulnerable Australians, but also those seeking to come here and rebuild their shattered lives,’ said Paul Power spokesperson for the coalition.
After the initial announcement that the number of African entrants had been cut to 30 percent of the total refugee and humanitarian intake, Mr Andrews then revealed that no more applications from African refugees would be considered until July 2008. He cited concerns about the integration of African refugees in Australia as one of the main reasons for the cut in African entrants. The coalition, which includes many organisations that work closely with refugees providing settlement services, is concerned that this decision will deny many African families the chance to be reunited.
‘Many refugees have lived through a period of intense trauma and have been forced to leave their family and loved ones in Africa. Being surrounded by friends and family is crucial to successful integration for new arrivals,’ said Mr Power.
Recent media coverage has focused on negative and inaccurate portrayals of Sudanese and other African communities. The coalition emphasizes that refugees from all countries in Africa, despite facing many challenges, have not only integrated successfully but contributed greatly to Australian society and our way of life.
‘We celebrate the positive contribution African refugees make to Australia – to our communities, our workplaces, our economy, our culture and our society. We pay tribute to the many African Australians who contribute to the wider community voluntarily and professionally – as doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, carers, engineers, scientists, primary industry workers and in many other occupations,’ added Mr Power.
The coalition is: Refugee Council of Australia, Oxfam Australia, Caritas Australia, Anglicord, Asylum Seekers Welcome Centre, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, African Oz, Amnesty International, Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Jewish Aid, Paddling for Refugees, The Asylum Seekers Centre of NSW, Refugee Claimants Support Centre QLD, ACFID, The Commission for Mission, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia, Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria, Asylum Seeker Project – Hotham Mission, Foundation House, Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, Lost Boys Association, World Vision, Refugee Action Collective, A Just Australia, Darfur Human Rights and Development Organisation of Australia, National Council of Churches – Christian World Service, African Think Tank, Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning, Sudanese Online Research Association, Actors for Refugees, Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau, City of Darebin, Victorian Council for Civil Liberties, Barbour Arnold & Cousins Lawyers, Infoxchange Australia, Australian Jewish Democratic Society, Friends of the Earth, RMIT Community Advocacy Unit, LHMU, Darfur Community Association of Australia, Brigidine Asylum Seeker Centre, Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, Jesus Family Centre, Australian Refugee Association Inc, Parramatta Young Christian Workers, Australian Lutheran World Service, South Australian Refugee Health Network, Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory, Australian Centre for Human Rights Education, NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors, Friends of STARTTS, Darfur Australia Network Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association, Survivors of Torture & Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service, United Nations Association of Australia, Jesuit Refugee Service, St Vincent de Paul National Council of Australia, Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, Townsville Multicultural Support Group Inc, Anglicare North Coast, The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils Inc, Reichstein Foundation, Dandenong Refugee Clinic Brotherhood of St Laurence, Melbourne Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office & Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.
Click here to read the open letter to Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews.
For more information call Paul Power at the Refugee Council of Australia on 0407 234 648 or 02 9211 9333
or Matthew Phillips at the Darfur Australia Network on 0408 541 717