Australia is known as the lucky country. Yet this has not been so for asylum seekers, as Australia maintains one of the most restrictive immigration detention systems in the world.
Successive federal governments have progressively tightened our immigration policies in an effort to make Australia an unattractive destination for people seeking asylum. The current government is proud that it has “stopped the boats” through its boat turn-back policy. Its attention has now turned to withdrawing or limiting support for people who arrive by aeroplane on a legal visa and later claim asylum, as well as asylum seekers currently living in the community while their refugee claim is being processed.
In late August of the this year, the Federal Government announced the cessation of financial and housing support for a group of asylum seekers who had been transferred from offshore detention in Nauru to Australia for medical reasons. We saw the immediate detrimental impact of the announcement on clients receiving care and services at the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Brunswick. This prompted us to release our first public statement calling for a more compassionate response to the plight of these people which is available at www.cabrini.com.au/news-and-events/new-blogcategory-2/cabrini-s-stand-on-compassionate-support-for-asylum-seekers/
The move prompted Sister Sharon Casey MSC and Sister Beatriz Santos MSC to request that we respond in a practical way: they asked us to make two vacant apartments in the building in which they live available to house asylum seekers. A subsequent call to the Brigidine Sisters Asylum Seeker Project www.basp.org.au resulted in a family moving into the first apartment within a week. Jiko from Somalia has four children under the age of six and is pregnant with her fifth. The family had spent four weeks in emergency accommodation, sharing just one room. The two bed-room apartment is a vast improvement and better meets their needs.
Our second group – three single women – will move into the other vacant apartment on Monday 16 October. They are currently sharing a house near the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project office. Their move will free up the house for an asylum seeker family in a location where it is easier for the Brigidine workers to provide support.
“We hope our accommodation will assist the women to better transition to living independently in the community when their refugee status is finally determined,” said Executive Director of Mission and Charitable Services Cath Garner.
“We are grateful we have this opportunity to demonstrate to these few people that we genuinely care about their plight and stand in solidarity with them, despite the harshness of our Federal Government’s policies.
“We draw strength from Mother Cabrini’s spirit and vision, particularly in this centenary year.”