Monthly Archives: August 2012

Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers puts forward Government-desired solutions

Once again, the Australian Government has used hand-picked “experts” to say yes to “offshore processing”. None of the three individuals on the Houston Panel have been appointed by refugee community groups or advocates, and therefore it comes as no surprise that their proposal is in line with the Government’s own offshore policy platform.

The proposal set forth by the appointed “expert panel” establishes offshore processing centres and isolates asylum seekers without giving them adequate refugee rights. In 2001 the conservative Liberal Australian Government, led by then Prime Minister John Howard, put forward the so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ and now under the current Labor Government led by Julia Gillard offshore processing is likely to become a part of Australian Law and will be the second largest damaging policy to refugees.

We should not forget that the Australian High Court has already rejected the Malaysian Solution and that detention facilities in Nauru were closed due to overwhelming human rights abuses that asylum seekers faced there. We should not push back asylum seekers and refugees from Australia to other countries; countries that have not signed the UN Refugee Convention.

Furthermore, Nauru has a poor track record of protection, safety, and humanitarian assistance for refugees and asylum seekers. As a leading member of the international community and as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, the Australian Government has certain ethical and legal obligations towards asylum seekers and refugees. According to the “expert panel”, the temporary protection visa (TPV) should be used for refugees who they might believe to be “vulnerable” in offshore detention centres, such as in Nauru or Manus Island.

The “expert panel” has forgotten that refugees are coming from life-threatening circumstances. They are vulnerable enough without the possibility of this ill-advised proposal. Further it is concerning that this proposal will penalise refugees by not allowing them to reunite with their family and isolating them indefinitely. If people have been locked in centres such as those in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, what democratic options do they have? How long will it take to process their visa?

I personally disagree with the Australian Government’s recent decision to re-open the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. I speak from my experiences of being detained three years in both off shore and on shore Australian detention centres. Detention is an illegal form of house arrest established by the Labor Government and developed under John Howard’s regime.  I would like to correct any misconceptions created by the Australian Government that it is a loving, humane or family friendly environment.  Many years of incarceration have contributed to mental and physical disabilities among fellow detainees.  Many of us have experienced first-hand what it is like to be detained in this kind of detention centre.

When I was in Christmas Island and Cocos Island – “offshore” detention centres – I saw people’s lives deteriorate whilst the isolated surroundings intimidated asylum seekers in to volunteering to go back to the countries where their lives were jeopardised in the first place. When people spoke out against injustices they were experiencing in detention centres, they were placed in isolation or solitary confinement. Further freedom was violated and limited by the authorities who treated us like subhumans. 

There is evidence suggesting that the creation of detention centres offshore can punish and silence the voices of asylum seekers, passing the blame onto the victims. The Australian Government has shirked its responsibility of running detention centres and given this responsibility over to private companies and is now further passing the responsibility to other countries wherein asylum seekers will be treated inhumanely. While refugees are waiting indefinitely in these centres, the possibility of their families back home facing danger and persecution is real. Offshore processing centres may lower the number of asylum seekers in Australia, but it is not a viable solution to fairly deal with asylum seekers and it will not put a stop to people coming to this country by boat.

There are over 40 million refugees around the world and Australia, many languishing in interim camps around the world. The offshore processing system will just add to this tally of interim camps, keeping refugees further in limbo. People fleeing persecution will always keep trying to reach a more permanent and secure location for themselves and their families whether there is a policy to stop them or not. Irrespective of how people arrive to Australia, asylum seekers should be treated with dignity and respect without being isolated behind razor-wire in the middle of nowhere.

Many of us transit through countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia, without going through any international humanitarian refugee process or consultations before taking the treacherous journey in a leaky boat across the Indian Ocean towards Australia.  If you look at why asylum seekers are making such a catastrophic decision to leave their country, most of the reasons given are related to a fear of persecution in their country or a fear of living in a war torn environment.  Yet these arrivals on a boat are questioned and monitored more closely than others by the Australian Government, politicians and the media.

People coming from countries such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Burma are in precarious, life threatening situations and the current proposals by the Australian Government’s “expert panel” jeopardises their safety and wellbeing. In the last two decades there has been a regression in Australia’s asylum seeker and refugee policy and it is noted that the issue has been politicised heavily in order to win votes through hardline attitudes. It is an unrealistic attempt at providing “a solution” to a multi-faceted problem.

The adoption of the ‘Expert Panel’ proposal re-institates the insular, backward looking “White Australia” motivation behind Australian policy making.

Ramesh Fernandez, CEO and Founder of RISE 

Offshore Processing: Deadly And Incoherent

Asylum seekers who have endured hardships, to cross many borders and reach the open seas with barely $2 left in their pockets, are being punished and politicised as queue jumpers. The general public are asking, “Why don’t they come the “right” way? But if you are an Afghani, Palestinian, Iraqi, Iranian or Sri Lankan, what it is the right way? Where is the queue? Who is responsible for the queue? Australia is punishing refugees coming on boats creating savage refugee policies such as indefinite detention, offshore processing and lengthy process of visa application and now adding the tally of cutting of family reunion.


An offshore processing centre may lower the numbers of people coming to Australia on a boat but it will not completely stop people coming to Australia via this mode because people will continue to try to reach a more permanent and secure location. Such a centre will just add to the tally of interim camps for refugees. We need to provide a humane and globally responsible solution for displaced refugees.  Whilst at the same time not placing extra burdens on less wealthy countries, to serve our national and political interests.

Download the report here.

RISE Arts Management Internship – call for Expressions of Interest

Are you a young person from a Refugee/Asylum Seeker background, who is interested in a career in Arts Management? Do you want to ‘learn the ropes’ of organising a prominent Festival held at Federation Square?

Then submit your EOI now to join the RISE team through the RISE Arts Management Internship!

Exciting new opportunity
The successful Intern will work closely with the Festival Director on the next RISE Festival, learning new skills and knowledge and gaining invaluable industry experience in the arts and events/festival management.

The successful Intern will be required to work flexible hours, beginning in early to mid-September and ending in late December of this year. Initially, the Intern will work for approximately 8 hours per week and then increase this significantly as the Festival draws closer. Time and place are to be negotiated with the Festival Director.

The successful Intern will gain experience in the following:
–    Festival programming and coordination
–    Artist negotiation and management
–    Production planning
–    Marketing and communications
–    Fundraising
–    Team work and management 

This is NOT a paid internship, but will lead to exciting new career prospects! For more information, please contact Eugenia Flynn, Festival Director, and 2012 RISE Festival on 0411 899 183 or via email eugenia.flynn@riserefugee.org.

How to apply

Applications are due on Friday 7 September 2012 and must comprise of the following:
1.    Cover letter
2.    Completed application form
3.    Resume / Curriculum Vitae

Applications can be forwarded via email to:

Eugenia Flynn
Festival Director
2012 RISE Festival
eugenia.flynn@riserefugee.org

ReDEFIANT: Busting the refugee myth

ReDEFIANT is a fresh, innovative, and energetic multi-lingual performance using spoken word to explore and challenge minority stereotypes. Participants will look at how the headlines define an ethnic group and how political rhetoric encourages division not understanding. We ask the participants, what they would do if given ownership of their cultural identities.

            The projects aims are to:

·        Develop participants artistically through workshops
·        Create a professional performance outcome that didactically discusses stereotypes, racism and post-settlement issues.
·        Initiate and support active engagement of refugee and asylum seekers within the professional theatre industry in Melbourne- both as performers and audience members.

Specifically, the project will use Forum theatre, a practice developed by Augusto Boal- a Brazilian Community Artist. He believed that by presenting social inequality and structural problems in a set of short acts followed by a live discussion people can discuss and find solutions; to build stronger communities.

RISE will present ReDEFIANT at La Mama on November 9, 10, and 11, an iconic Australian performance space that fosters new artists, edgy performances, and new voices.

For more information and register your interest to participate contact RISE at arts@riserefugee.org

Click here to view the ReDEFIANT poster!

Survey for Schools on “Refugees and Asylum Seekers”

I’m Rania Glaidous and 15 years old and currently in year 10 at Manor lakes College in Melbourne. I’m currently doing my work-placement at RISE: Refugees Survivors and Ex-detainees.

RISE is the first refugee organisation entirely governed by refugees and asylum seekers in Australia located in Melbourne. RISE helps refugees and asylum seekers every day, providing assistance for them to build their new lives in Australia such as advocacy, driving project, welfare assistant, English tutoring, foodbank, housing, employment and training ,drop in centre, music and art projects, festivals and other events. RISE works with asylum seekers in detention centres all across in Australia. RISE is also a non-profit organisation and seeks donations and volunteers to help out.

I really enjoy contributing to RISE as part of my work-placement and this is great organisation and everyone here is very welcoming and I will love to do more work here in the future. I’ll be doing a school level survey on “refugees and asylum seekers” in Australia. I would love it if you would fill out this form and give me your feedback. It is optional and this just for us to contact you and ask further questions.

You can also download the survey here

Thank you for your time.
Rania Glaidous