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Migration Amendment Bill

BR4R has successfully lodged a submission to the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020 [Provisions] inquiry … what a mouthful!
This bill is intended to give the power to the Minister to declare ANY item a prohibited item. It would also allow officers to search (without a warrant) and seize any such items.  This also includes the authority to strip search and to use sniffer dogs.
This bill is over-reach, as similar powers currently exist.  However, the current laws are limited to specific things that are of concern, such as dangerous items and illicit drugs.
It is of great concern that this bill intends to extend this list to include virtually anything that the minister decides.
The wording of the bill is that the prohibited item ‘might be a risk to the health, safety or security of persons in the facility, or to the order of the facility’. This is a very broad statement that could encompass almost anything.
The current minister wants to prevent any information about the conditions inside detention centres from reaching the public.  This has been demonstrated by guards illegally confiscating such menial items as art materials (paint, brushes & paper) as these were being used to make posters critical of the conditions the refugees were experiencing.  Under the amendment it would become legal to seize such items as they could be described as being a risk to ‘the order of the facility’.
Of greatest concern is the threatened removal of mobile phones and computers.
These items are ESSENTIAL for the survival of the refugees.  This is not a flippant (frivolous?) statement.  Without the communication afforded by such devices the mental health of refugees deteriorates rapidly and can contribute to self-harm and suicide.
Mobile phones and computers are a vital link between refugees and their families and their supporters.  They are also crucial for effective communication with their medical practitioners as well as their legal support.  These are all basic human rights and are directly related to the health and safety of refugees.
BR4R felt that it was an important part of our advocacy work to lodge a submission to outline the detrimental effects of this amendment.  Our submission will now be seen by the Senate Standing Committee and we hope it will help to convince them that this amendment should not proceed.
BR4R is proud to speak up to be a voice for those refugees who are denied the right to speak for themselves.
For a more detailed description of the consequences of passing this bill see the Human Rights Commission page on the internet https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/legal/submission/migration-amendment-prohibiting-items-immigration-detention-facilities-0
Presently Victorians are facing life under lock down and no doubt dream of the time when they will be free, to visit friends, to go to cafes, to do things that previously we all took for granted. Whilst we all yearn to be free and are grateful for any intervention that allows refugee resettlement, freedom for some comes at enormous emotional cost. The pain of so many years of incarceration goes on. 
 
In this insightful article, resettled refugee Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque reflects on the freedom he has in the US, and how that freedom is tempered by thoughts of those who are still detained. Imran is a Rohingya refugee. He spent five years detained on Manus Island and now lives in Chicago. "I left Manus Island but it's hard to feel free while my refugee brothers and sisters are still detained".
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/27/i-left-manus-island-but-its-hard-to-feel-free-while-my-refugee-brothers-and-sisters-are-still-detained?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
 
If you are reading our newsletter you are no doubt as equally incensed as we are about the Australian Government's treatment of refugees whether off shore or on the mainland of Australia. It is not astonishing then when so many people seem to be completely oblivious to this? How do you convince them? A series of conversation starters being organised by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre might help:
The workshops are designed to help you have conversations to change the hearts and minds of people you know who may not appear to be supportive of fair policies for people seeking asylum. These workshops run for two and a half hours and all you will need is an internet connection and a pen! The details and sign up links are below:
Thursday 30th July 6pm Breakthrough Conversations Training - Online 30/07/20 6pm
Saturday 1st August 11am Breakthrough Conversations Training - Online 01/08/20 11am
Saturday 8th Aug 11am Breakthrough Conversations Training - Online 08/08/20 11am
Although we all might feel that our efforts to fundraise, to hold lawful protests, to support refugee guests in our homes are currently comprised, we can keep talking and effect change that way. I encourage you to take part in one of the sessions above.
 
Finally of course you will all be aware that Behrooz Boochani's claim for aslyum in NZ has been accepted and he has taken up a post in one of the Universities. This, of course, is excellent news. It is though somewhat tempered by his treatment by the Australian government. If this also makes your blood boil, then talk to others about it, join a conversation starter.  We can still effect change, just in different ways.
 
Warm regards, Ruth 

Art Exhibition

Our art exhibition postponed from May is going ahead in October at the Ignite studios. 
https://www.nrcgballina.com.au/v1/exhibitions/upcoming-exhibitions/597-ballina-region-for-refugees
 
We are hopeful that we will be joined by some of the artists either in person, or on a virtual launch. Many thanks to those of you who have stepped forward to volunteer at the Ignite studios. We will have a Covid Safe plan in place. We are still seeking volunteers for Wed morning and a couple of people who might be able to help out at short notice if one of those on the roster is unable to cover their rostered spot. If you can assist, please email President@br4r.org.au. All volunteers will have information prior to the exhibition about the art works and your expected role in the gallery.

Update on Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) 

As many of you know, BR4R is part of the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI). This umbrella group has been advocating for the introduction of a community refugee sponsorship program in Australia, which would enable ordinary Australians to sponsor refugees from overseas. The federal government is currently reviewing its refugee sponsorship policies and we are hopeful that a suitable federal program could be available next year. While COVID-19 has significantly curtailed international travel, governments and international organisations such as UNHCR and IOM are working to ensure that refugee resettlement can resume as soon as possible in a way that is safe for all.
 
But there is plenty that can be done right now to get ready for a new era of welcoming refugees to our shores. To this end CRSI, along with a number of key partners, is launching a Group Mentor Program and they are looking for mentor groups to join them on this journey as the trailblazers for a new era of community sponsorship in Australia. BR4R is of course interested in becoming one of those mentor groups.
 
Our own Stanley Yeo will take part in a link up in early August.  If BR4R is accepted then we stand to receive a $5,000 grant from the Sidney Myer Fund (administered via CRSI) to help us sponsor a refugee from overseas once a suitable federal program is in place.

As a mentor group BR4R would:
  • test and refine a comprehensive sponsor training package which has been developed by Canadian experts and others at the forefront of programs in the United Kingdom, Ireland and elsewhere
  • assist a refugee individual or family for six months in a variety of ways which may include help with orientation in our local community, help finding work, assistance with education and homework or addressing other specific needs, with access to back-up advice from a settlement agency
  • work with the CRSI so that they can highlight the triumphs and also understand and cater for the likely challenges that a future sponsorship program might face
Stanley will give a brief update in our September newsletter.

Operation Not Forgotten

We should all be proud that in the last financial year BR4R has donated $4480 to the Refugee Council of Australia to go directly to Operation #NotForgotten.
In case you don't know about this sponsorship program, it's a campaign to provide safe resettlement for hundreds of desperate refugees who have been detained on Manus and Nauru since 2013. There are over 300 people still being held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea who have no options, no hope. These are the people who have been rejected by the US because of their country of origin.
Canada Caring Society and MOSAIC are working to resettle these individuals through Canada's private sponsorship program. They are raising enough funds to sponsor up to 300 individuals and their families - approximately $4 million CAD. The Canadian government requires them to raise $16,500 CAD per person. These funds are held in trust and then used to support the refugee and their family for their first year in Canada. 

Book Donation and Sales

BR4R will be donating two copies of Mark Isaac’s book, The Kabul Peace House, to the Richmond-Tweed library.  You can also purchase a copy for $30, by emailing your request to Admin@br4r.org.au

Roadside Rallies

Please visit our website for Roadside rally dates in August 
https://br4r.org.au/events/2020-07/
Make a donation today
Link to BR4R on Facebook

Latest News

For the latest news on matters related to people seeking asylum and refugees please follow these links
Refugee Council of Australia
Kaldor Centre for Refugee Law UNSW
Amnesty International Australia
Rural Australians For Refugees
Ballina Region for Refugees
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Ballina Region for Refugees · PO Box 7083 · East Ballina, NSW 2478 · Australia

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