Latest Situation regarding Papua New Guinea and Manus Island Refugee Situation

Today’s (3/2/2017) Sydney Morning Herald and other major newspapers inform us of the embarassing situation Australia is finding itself in, due to Trump’s unsurprising ?final response regarding the so-called resettlement deal with America, brokered by the Obama administration during his last days in office.

Much has been and will be said about this:

As Christian intercessors we urgently need to pray as follows:

You may have heard today’s news about refugees on Papua New Guinea and Manus Island’s latest letdown and terrible ongoing trauma. Even though Trump seems to have extracted himself from the previous deal by Obama with our government, the responsibility for these refugees is and always has been our own government’s and it is my very strong conviction that we have failed miserably to care for them in a responsible and humane way!

This latest letdown for them will no doubt cause severe additional suffering and trauma and possible suicide and self-harm attempts.

We need to cover them in earnest and heartfelt prayer and ask our Lord to change the Australian government’s heart towards them; from a heart of stone to a heart of compassion.

Also pray for the Iranian refugee Loghman Sawari who has escaped to Fiji from Manus Island Detention Centre to seek asylum in Fiji. His future seems very bleak indeed! I admire him for his initiative and why shouldn’t he seek protection elsewhere, if Australia has failed to provide such!

Thank you, on behalf of the most powerless ones on this planet!

 

 

The Upcoming Australian Election (can be applied to any election; anywhere!) – My thoughts

Let’s be those who prayerfully consider the present needs of our precious country of Australia and make the effort to carefully consider the responsibility before us to appoint worthy representatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Are they representing our struggling and often forgotten farmers, those most vulnerable in our society such as old people, the unborn and children, mothers and children fleeing from abusive partners, the mentally ill, those in the grip of addiction, refugees and their children, left without hope and ill treated, the sale of our land and houses for mere profit, to those who don’t care for our country or its people and are robbing young couples of what used to be and still should be the great Australian dream? I am sure, you can think of other, presently neglected but vital issues which need to be revived and protected.

The time is now to take responsibility; next week it will be too late!

I wanted to watch a movie last night; instead I felt compelled to do my homework and to plow through the confusing array of choices. Prayer helps in this process!

Ultimately it comes back to one issue: “Hallowed be your Name. Your will be done on earth (as it is in heaven)!” Amen.

A Just Australia campaign

The A Just Australia campaign is managed by the Refugee Council of Australia. The core mission of the campaign is to campaign for positive changes to government policy on refugee and asylum seekers. By working together with prominent Australians and community groups and thousands of concerned individuals, A Just Australia aims to achieve just and compassionate treatment of refugees, consistent with the human rights standards which Australia has developed and endorsed.

Exercise your right to be heard
In 2001, as Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers was rapidly deteriorating in the weeks after the Tampa incident, no one knew that significant change would come three years later from within the government’s own ranks. The situation today is similar: a government pushing ahead with harsh treatment of asylum seekers in the name of deterrence, supported by many in the Opposition, but with a small number of MPs and Senators in different parties publicly or privately expressing misgivings about policies which punish people seeking Australia’s protection from persecution. In thinking about when and how change might come, we can be sure that change will not come if Australians who oppose current policies remain silent.

In 2002, a group of Australians began a campaign, A Just Australia, to encourage Australians to speak up for just treatment of asylum seekers. Today, the Refugee Council of Australia is keeping this campaign alive by inviting Australian citizens and residents to exercise their right to be heard. We want you to let your local MP and the Senators who represent you know how you feel about Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Participate in our “Write To Be Heard” campaign
We would like you to join us in our new “Write to Be Heard” campaign. The aim is to write to the MPs and Senators who represent us (by email or post) to let them know that we and many other fair-minded Australians oppose policies which punish and harm people who have sought Australia’s protection from persecution.

At least once a month, we will invite you to consider a current issue of concern to asylum seekers and refugees and to write to your political representatives about it. Our first request for your support is on the issue of Temporary Protection Visas.

Don’t underestimate the influence you can have. Every elector in Australia is represented in Federal Parliament by one member of the House of Representatives and either 12 Senators if they live in a state or two Senators if they live in the ACT or Northern Territory. The territories have Coalition and Labor Senators while each State has Senators from the Coalition, Labor and the Greens and one or two of the minor party or Independent Senators who hold the balance of power. The politicians who represent you will probably include people who strongly support current government policy, others who openly oppose and some who toe the party line but have misgivings or only limited knowledge of the issues.

Release all children from immigration detention
At the end of October 2014, 726 children were in immigration detention facilities.
We know the damaging effects of detention on young people’s lives.
The Government doesn’t have to detain children – there are community-based alternatives at its disposal.
The Write To Be Heard campaign is asking you to urgently write to MPs and demand the release of all children from immigration detention facilities.

The Refugee Council of Australia has produced a one-page background briefing on the issue which is available here.
We have developed a sample letter which can be used to develop your own letter. Please forward the campaign details to friends and like-minded people. Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.

Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill will harm vulnerable people
The government’s Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill is currently before the Senate. If passed it will have a devastating impact on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. Write To Be Heard is asking you to contact the cross-bench Senators and urge them to vote against the Bill. Find out how here.
If passed it will:
• Give the Minister for Immigration extraordinary powers during interception and turnback operations while limiting review by the courts or Parliament.
• Reintroduce harmful Temporary Protection Visas and remove pathways to permanent protection, condemning people to constant uncertainty.
• See asylum seekers ‘fast tracked’ through the visa application process where they will have to navigate complex legal systems without support or legal advice.

Other measures will replace the internationally-accepted definition of refugee status with the Government’s own interpretation. Even the Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, chaired by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, says the Bill breaches Australia’s core human rights commitments.

The Write To Be Heard campaign is asking you to urgently write to MPs – in particular cross-bench, Greens and Labor Senators – before it’s too late. Let MPs know that we will not support a Bill that strips refugees and asylum seekers of the few rights they have.

Please forward the campaign details to friends and like-minded people.

We have developed a sample letter which can be used to develop your own letter. Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.

Stop the forcible return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan
Last week, Refugee Council of Australia President Phil Glendenning wrote to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, urging the Australian Government to suspend forcible returns of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. Phil’s pleas followed revelations in The Saturday Paper that an asylum seeker Zainullah Naseri, who was returned in August 2014, was subsequently abducted and tortured by the Taliban.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison said he would investigate the circumstances surrounding Zainullah’s case. Write to Mr Morrison and urge him to immediately suspend the forced return of asylum seekers to Afghanistan. We have developed a sample letter which can be used to press the case for suspending returns.
Please send a copy of your letter to Shadow Minister for Immigration Richard Marles, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Palmer United Party Federal Leader Clive Palmer, your local MP and Senators in your State.

Temporary Protection Visas
Federal Parliament is expected to push for the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). There is still time to write to Members of Parliament – in particular the Senators from the minor parties and independents – and let them know why the TPVs must be rejected.
We have developed a sample letter which outlines the case against TPVs and a series of key points you can use to write your own letters.
How to contact your MPs and Senators
Email, postal and telephone contact details for all MPs and Senators are available here.
Feedback is encouraged
Please share any responses you receive through your advocacy work. Send any feedback to writetobeheard@refugeecouncil.org.au

Join us on Facebook – look for ‘RCOA’
Follow us on Twitter – OzRefugeeCounc #WriteToBeHeard

Tips for writing letters
• Keep your letter short by raising only one or two key issues.
• Ask a question on those issues that require a personal response (refer to our sample questions for inspiration)
• If you are emailing your letter, write it in a word program and attach it as a document to the email rather than place it in the body of the email. Many electorate offices do not reply to emails as they are often not considered official communications.
• Use the correct title of the person you are addressing
• ‘Mr/ Mrs/Ms/Dr First Name Last Name MP’
• ‘Senator First Name Last Name’.
You are likely to get a wordy or evasive answer. Read it carefully. If it does not actually answer your question, write again pointing out politely that they have not answered the question. Repeat the question and ask for an answer. Repeat this process as often as necessary.

Sample questions on different topics
Use these to help as inspiration for your letters to elicit a personal response and reflection from your representatives.

As the elected representative in my electorate of XX, I would like to know your position in the following matter:

Asylum seekers:
• Do you believe that Australia should accord to refugees and asylum seekers all their rights and entitlements under relevant international laws? Are you aware that current laws and policies violate these rights?
• Do you believe that people commit an offence by arriving in Australia without permission and seeking asylum? If Yes, what offence do they commit?
• Do you agree that all refugees should be treated equally regardless of how they arrived in Australia?
• Do you agree that asylum seekers not afforded protection in Australia should only be returned in safety and dignity, and never to a place of danger? Do you agree that where there is credible evidence this does not occur, Australia has a responsibility to investigate our methods and locations of forced removal?

Employment:
• Do you believe that work rights should be afforded to asylum seekers holding bridging visas?

Detention:
• Do you agree that children should not be detained?
• Do you agree that refugees and asylum seekers should not be detained indefinitely?
• Do you agree that no refugee or asylum seeker should be subjected to any human rights violation in order to deter others from seeking asylum in Australia?

An alternative to offshore detention

An alternative to offshore detention

by Julian Burnside | Nov 4, 2015 | Asylum Seekers, Human Rights

The  present system of dealing with asylum seekers who arrive by boat is cruel (intentionally) and hideously expensive.  There is a rational alternative to the  intentional cruelty of the present system. That system reflects the attempts of both major parties at the last election to outdo each other in their promises to mistreat a particular group of human beings.

And it’s expensive.  The current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  That’s a big number: think of it as one million Geelong chopper rides each year!

Australia’s treatment of boat people needs a radical re-think.  It is shameful that we are now trying to treat asylum seekers so harshly that they will be deterred from seeking our help at all.  It is shameful that this deliberate mistreatment of asylum seekers has been “justified” by describing them falsely as “illegal”, when in fact they commit no offence by coming here and asking for protection.  It is shameful that the deliberate Coalition lies about asylum seekers have not been roundly condemned by the Labor party.  It is shameful that, out of an alleged concern about asylum seekers drowning in their attempt to reach safety, we punish them if they don’t drown.

There are better ways of responding to asylum seekers.  If I could re-design the system, I would choose between two possible models.

A Regional solution

Boat-arrivals would be detained initially, but for a maximum of one month, to allow preliminary health and security checks.  That detention would be subject to extension, but only if a court was persuaded that a particular individual should be detained longer.

After that period of initial detention, boat arrivals would be released into the community on an interim visa with a number of conditions that would apply until the person’s refugee status was decided:

  •  they would be required to report regularly to a Centrelink office or a post office,  to make sure they remained available for the balance of the process;
  •  they would be allowed to work;
  •  they would be entitled to Centrelink and Medicare benefits;
  •  they would be required to live in a specified rural town or regional city.

A system like this would have a number of benefits. First, it would avoid the harm presently inflicted on refugees held in detention.  Prolonged detention with an unknown release date is highly toxic: experience over the past 15 years provides plenty of evidence of this.

Second, any government benefits paid to refugees would be spent on accommodation, food and clothing in country towns.  There are plenty of towns in country areas which would welcome an increase in their population and a boost to their local economy.  According to the National Farmers Federation, there are more than 90,000 unfilled jobs in rural areas.  It is likely that adult male asylum seekers would look for work, and would find it.

However, even if every boat person stayed on full Centrelink benefits for the whole time it took to decide their refugee status, it would cost the Government only about $500,000 a year, all of which would go into the economy of country towns.  By contrast, the current system costs between $4 billion and $5 billion a year.  We would save billions of dollars a year, and we would be doing good rather than harm.

A variant of this would be to require asylum seekers to live in Tasmania instead of regional towns.  As a sweetener, and to overcome any lingering resistance, the Federal Government would pay one billion dollars a year to the Tasmanian government to help with the necessary social adjustments. It would be a great and needed boost for the Tasmanian economy, and Australia would still be billions of dollars better off.

Genuine regional processing  

Another possibility is to process protection claims while people are in Indonesia.  Those who are assessed as refugees would be resettled, in Australia or elsewhere, in the order in which they have been accepted as refugees.  On assessment, people would be told that they will be resettled safely within (say) two or three months.  Provided the process was demonstrably fair, the incentive to get on a boat would disappear instantly.

At present, people assessed by the UNHCR in Indonesia face a wait of 10 or 20 years before they have a prospect of being resettled.  During that time, they are not allowed to work, and can’t send their kids to school. No wonder they chance their luck by getting on a boat.

Genuine offshore processing, with a guarantee of swift resettlement, was the means by which the Fraser government managed to bring about 80,000 Vietnamese boat people to Australia in the late 1970s.  It worked, but it was crucially different from the manner of offshore processing presently supported by both major parties.  In addition, other countries also resettled some of the refugees processed in this way.  It is likely that Australians would be more receptive to this approach if they thought other countries were contributing to the effort.

A solution along these lines would face some practical problems.  At present, the end-point for refugees who reach Australia via Indonesia is a dangerous boat trip.  You have to be fairly desperate to risk the voyage, which probably explains why such a high percentage of boat people are ultimately assessed as genuine refugees: over the past 15 years, about 90% of boat people have been assessed, by Australia, as refugees lawfully entitled to our protection.  If the end-point is less dangerous, it is obvious that a number of people will set out who are not genuine refugees.  That would cause a problem for Indonesia, and Australia would have to help Indonesia deal with that problem.  But since our current system is costing about $5 billion a year, we can probably work out some arrangement with Indonesia which suits them and us.

There is another problem.  Because we have been indelicate in our relations with Indonesia in recent years, the Indonesian government may not be receptive to an approach like this.  Their reluctance may be softened if Malaysia was also recruited for a similar role.

Both of these solutions have these features in common: they are effective, humane, and far less expensive than our present approach.  But more than that: they reflect the essential decency of Australians – something which has been tarnished and degraded by our behaviour over the past 13 years.

 

Easter greetings and some thoughts on human slavery

Dear friends and fellow pray-ers!

Like some of you; this morning I awoke to a Facebook security message asking me to reply whether I was safe, in view of an explosion which took place just recently. It turned out to be a world-wide error by Facebook, in response to an explosion which just took place in Pakistan (I googled it to find out). It nevertheless touched a nerve in me; in view of all the recent unsettling events world-wide. It could well have occurred on our soil, and there have been and continue to be attempts here to orchestrate just such a terror event as we have seen recently in Brussels and Paris.

When criminals consider their heinous crimes to be holy acts of a holy war and pleasing to their god, then we are facing a new and infinitely worse level of evil. As Christians we shouldn’t be surprised what the evil one is capable of, especially as his time on earth is reaching its final stage (Revelation 20:10).

One of the worst forms of evil which, unlike the sudden death caused by of a terror related explosion, or its wounding or lasting maiming effects, is the entrapment and daily abuse of other human beings through slavery. As we have seen before; it often touches the people group we are and have been praying for: refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP’s).

What should our response as intercessors be to such overwhelming evil? I can think of no better one than the one recommended by our Lord Himself: The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)! In it is contained what our response should be. I believe that not only does it evoke the best answer from God to a seemingly ever increasing form of evil but keeps us in a place of calm and peace. For it keeps our eyes on Him, who is our wisdom, our safety and our peace (Is. 26:3-4; Thess. 3:16; 1 Cor. 1:30; Ps 46:1-3).

We just celebrated Easter and I realise that Jesus Himself lived that prayer to perfection; He lived “hallowing” or highly honouring the name of the Father, submitting to and serving His will, ushering in God’s Kingdom (as its King and Humble Servant), giving the hungry bread and much more, He Himself delivering us from evil through His death and resurrection and, tortured, mocked and in His dying breath; asking for forgiveness for His tormentors and murderers “because they knew not what they did”.

The depth of Christ’s life and words are infinitely worthwhile to read about and to meditate upon. They continuously have the effect of transforming us and bringing us His life, through faith.

Enjoy this final day of this year’s Easter break!

P.S.

Below some info and stats on the worldwide situation regarding slavery:

Contemporary slavery, also known as modern slavery, refers to the institution of slavery that continue to exist in the present day. Estimates of the number of slaves today range from around 21 million to 29 million. Modern slavery is a multibillion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually.

The Global Slavery Index 2013 states that 10 nations account for 76 percent of the world’s enslaved. India has the most slaves of any country, at 14 million (over 1% of the population). China has the second-largest number with 2.9 million slaves, followed by Pakistan with 2.1 million, Nigeria with 701,000, Ethiopia with 651,000, Russia with 516,000, Thailand with 473,000, Congo with 462,000, Myanmar with 384,000, and Bangladesh with 343,000.

An estimated 22% of slaves to date are active in the sex industry.

Children comprise about 26% of the slaves today. Most are domestic workers or work in cocoa, cotton or fishing industries. Many are trafficked and sexually exploited. In war-torn countries, children have been kidnapped and sold to political parties to be used as child soldiers. Forced child labor is the dominant form of slavery in Haiti.

Mainly driven by the culture in certain regions, early or forced marriage is a form of slavery that affects millions of women and girls all over the world. When families cannot support their children, the daughters are often married off to the males of wealthier, more powerful families. These men are often significantly older than the girls. The females are forced into lives whose main purpose is to serve their husbands. This oftentimes fosters an environment for physical, verbal and sexual abuse.

Islamist

In 2003 Shaykh Saleh Al-Fawzan, a member at that time of the Senior Council of Clerics, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, issued a fatwa stating “Slavery is a part of Islam. Slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long there is Islam,” and that anyone who says otherwise “is an infidel.”

Two Islamist groups, Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have supported the practice of slavery. In 2014, both groups were reported to have kidnapped large numbers of girls and younger women. According to an August 2015 story in The New York Times, in territory of the Islamic State, “the trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.”

Quotations taken from Wikipedia website

 

NAURU DETENTION FOR CHILDREN UNACCEPTABLE SAY ANGLICAN CHURCH BISHOPS

Melbourne’s Anglican bishops have again urged the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, to change the narrative on children in detention despite the High Court decision that there is no legal impediment to returning more than 250 asylum seekers to Nauru. In a published statement The Bishops claim “The fact that a legal determination has been made does not require the Government to act to return women and children to off-shore detention. No reasonable Australian wants to encourage people smugglers in any way, but it is simply morally unacceptable to leave children to languish in appalling conditions in off-shore detention centres. If the nation can agree on these two principles, surely it is not beyond us to find a solution.”

The Bishops statement went on, “The Anglican Church in Melbourne will continue to support asylum seekers and refugees with services and advocacy and spiritual help. The Church and its welfare agencies have long had considerable involvement in resettling refugees and helping them build a life in Australia. We applaud the motives of those Christian churches who intend to test the ancient common law notion of sanctuary, but our churches are not equipped to provide temporary accommodation. A better answer would be for Mr Turnbull to exercise compassion and moral principle and allow the asylum seekers to remain in Australia as the processes unfold.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, says Anglicans along with other Christians in Sydney are concerned by the prospect of 91 asylum seeker children being returned to Nauru following the High Court ruling, a situation which he said ‘should concern every Australian’. Australia is currently detaining around 80 children, at Wickham Point, and about 70 children on Nauru. The High Court’s ruling means that dozens of asylum-seeker families, including babies born in Australia, could be deported to Nauru. Dr Davies says the Human Rights Commission Report (2014) and the contemporary testimony of paediatricians indicate that the overwhelming majority of children suffer considerable trauma during detention. “There is no safe level of exposure when it concerns children in detention” Dr Davies said.

Dr Davies said he was mindful of the difficult decisions that the Immigration Department, under various governments, has had to make. “It is my sincere hope that the Immigration Minister and his Department can find a way to keep these children in Australia” the Archbishop said. “The Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney stands ready to offer help and facilities in whatever way we can.”

Source: Press Release from Anglican Church in Australia

Published in the Australian Prayer Network, 10 February 2016

Further Prayer Needed for Australian Refugee Situation

2 Chronicles 7:14

“…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Folks, in light of the article below, which is just another sorry saga in the litany of cruelty, indifference and irresponsibility perpetrated against the most vulnerable in our midst (in our case refugees) by, sadly, our very own government representing US, its citizens, we need to continue to cry out to our Lord against such unrighteous behaviour, sanctioned by our governing authorities.

PRESS RELEASE 31 AUGUST 2015 by Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce:

Transfield awarded yet another 5 years to mismanage offshore detention centres.

Vice-Chair of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, Sister Brigid Arthur, said today “it’s inconceivable that despite the abuses which have been inflicted on helpless people on Nauru and Manus Island, that the operator of those facilities, Transfield Services, has been awarded another 5 years to inflict even more harm”.

As a regular visitor to mainland detention centres, Sister Brigid Arthur works with women and children who have experienced sexual assault on Nauru. She said that “this company was paid $1.2 billion by Australian taxpayers to manage these gulags on Manus Island and Nauru. Transfield AND their sub-contractors should have been punished by their poor performance, not rewarded!”

Misha Coleman, Executive Officer of the Taskforce, said “now the spotlight will really be on those investors – superannuation funds, mums and dads – who hold shares in Transfield Services.”

She said that Transfield were awarded the contracts the first time around in an uncompetitive process, which the Government of the day justified due to the hasty decision to re-open Nauru and Manus Island and the political need to get them up and running ‘overnight’.

This time around, Coleman said “there was enough time to run the competitive process with full due diligence being applied to competing companies. We’ve had so many inquiries including the Government’s Moss Review, which document a plethora of poor management procedures in Transfield’s Nauru centre, and which have led to the systematic sexual abuse of women and children. Most of this abuse goes largely unprosecuted and unpunished. Surely some of these poor performance issues should have found their way into the judging and scoring for this new round of contracts?”

In evidence given to the Senate Inquiry into recent sexual abuse legislation on Nauru, many submitters talked about the way the toilet areas have become dangerous places where sexual assaults often occur. Coleman said that “the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce will be calling on the government, and Transfield Services, to introduce basic safeguards – such as functioning and safe toilet facilities – into the contracts before they are signed by both parties. Surely that’s the least we can expect from a billion dollar deal.”

Further comment available from:

Misha Coleman
Executive Officer, Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, 0428 399 739

Sister Brigid Arthur
Vice Chair of the Australian Churches’ Refugee Taskforce, 0408 101 134

Copyright © 2015 Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce, All rights reserved. You are receiving this email because you joined up through Act for Peace or via the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce website.

Our mailing address is:

Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce
209 Gertrude Street
Fitzroy, Vic 3065
Australia

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Speaking at the Hubert Humphrey Building dedication in Washington, D.C. on November 1, 1977, former U.S. Vice President (1965-69) Hubert Humphrey spoke about the treatment of the weakest members of society as a reflection of a government: “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

From The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When by Ralph Keyes, St. Martin’s Griffin (2006

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Let your heart choose what prayers to send up to our Heavenly Father. We have the confidence that if we pray according to His will, He hears us and will intervene, where man and governing authorities have built strongholds of untouchability, where they perpetrate their unrighteous decision making. God CAN AND WILL smash those walls and shine His light of truth on them and bring a change for righteousness to our Nation.

Do we care enough to cry out to Him, with our whole hearts and continue to do so until the tide turns?

He may ask us to take some further action. Let’s obey Him in all things.

May you sense His pleasure as you seek Him!