Monthly Archives: December 2015

RISE Arts’ Space Equipment Appeal

Dear Friends,

We would like to bring to your attention an exciting new initiative within RISE. As part of the new RISE drop-in centre we are seeking to establish a community-based performance space.

The drop-in centre will provide a platform for aspiring artists in our communities to develop industry skills and express themselves in a safe and supportive environment. With the assistance of our talented and trained staff and mentors, we hope to provide aspiring artists with the engineering and production facilities to showcase their skills in a variety of artistic mediums.

Through a series of workshops and performances, the art projects at our drop-in centre will aim to empower refugees and asylum seekers to develop their means for creative expression, communication and dialogue. This project will be developed and run by refugees and asylum seekers and will be for our communities in Melbourne, making it particularly unique.

The need for this project arose from RISE’s consultations with asylum seekers and refugee communities. One of the most common needs identified by people is for their voice to be heard, recognised and acknowledged in addressing the various challenges they face.

RISE operates in areas which are grossly underserviced and underfunded as such we are seeking your financial assistance in sourcing suitable equipment to establish the RISE drop-in centre. Examples of desired equipment include;

  • Projector: $1,999
  • Wireless Headset Microphone: $99
  • Wireless Speaker System: $300
  • Projector Screen: $399

If you would like to donate any above equipment or donate funds please contact admin@riserefugee.org

Regards

RISE Team

Deported to danger: Sudanese refugees in Jordan 18/12/2015

The Jordanian government denied Sudanese refugees protection by dehumanising and detaining Sudanese refugees, and then deporting them back to the danger of further persecution in Sudan by RISE member .

RISE highly condemns the forceful deportation of hundreds of Sudanese refugees- mostly from Darfur- to Sudan by the Jordanian government. According to the report, troops entered the area at around 3 am in the morning, forcibly rounded up the Sudanese refugees and escorted them to the airport.

The majority of Sudanese refugees in Jordan come from war zones such as Darfur in western Sudan.  Darfur was an independent region until 1916 when the British forcibly occupied and merged it with another region, Sudan, which was also under British occupation. After Sudan gained independence in 1956, Darfur continued to be economically marginalised and underdeveloped at a federal level.  Ever since war began in Darfur in 2003, around 300,000 people have been killed, and more than 3 million people have been displaced internally and externally. Most of the casualties and forced displacements are of civilians. The international community has turned a blind eye over the ongoing war in Darfur.

New Sudanese special forces under the command of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), have committed war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, systemic discrimination, and other abuses against Darfur civilians. Thus, the persecution led by the Sudan government forces these people to seek asylum in different countries, including neighbouring countries such as Jordan.

Since last month, the conditions of Sudanese asylum seekers has become very critical. As a result, they started protesting for humanitarian assistance and better living conditions in Jordanian refugee camps. The Jordanian government started punishing and discriminating against Sudanese seeking asylum in Jordan, and denied their basic rights according to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951.

The Jordanian government denied Sudanese refugees protection, as well as the right to seek asylum, by dehumanising and detaining Sudanese refugees, and then deporting them back to the danger of further persecution in Sudan.

According to reports, about 4000 Sudanese asylum seekers are in Jordan. Majority of the Sudanese that have been deported are registered in UNHCR, and have faced discrimination from the Jordanian government based on their race and skin colour. Jordanian authorities, rather than protecting those who fled the war in Darfur, detained and deported about 800 Sudanese asylum seekers back to Sudan.

When refugees seek protection, they should not be deported back to where they would face persecution nor should they be detained crossing borders. Refugees must be treated humanely, with dignity, and given protection. In deporting Sudanese refugees, Jordan shows the rest of the world that it does not comply with its own customary human rights laws, and does so with outright xenophobia.

At RISE, we wonder which part of the world we can seek protection in if every country keeps deporting and detaining our community members (refugees), and where is the so called “justice” here for us? It should not be just theory in books, but it should also be practiced.

 

RISE supports call for UN to end contracts with G4S worth more than $22 million annually:

While Australia’s Manus island detention camp was subcontracted to G4S, asylum seeker Reza Barati was killed and other asylum seekers maimed after attacks were carried out by detention staff in 2014. To date no one has been convicted of these crimes.

In 2010, Angolan asylum seeker Jimmy Mubenga died in the hands of G4S during forced deportation from the UK in 2010. Sixty five racist jokes were found on the mobile phone of one of the G4S security guards who was restraining him when he died. (http://riserefugee.org/inquest-into-the-death-of-a-deporte…/).

In Israel, 520 Palestinians, including 5 children are reported to be administratively detained like asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. This detention system is also run by G4S.

UNHCR in Jordan has cancelled it’s contracts with G4S after protests initiated by the Palestinian BDS movement and RISE:Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees supports their call for the UN to end ALL contracts with G4S.

Information on BDS campaign to end UN contracts with G4S:

http://www.addameer.org/Campaign/StopG4S/UNdropG4S

https://electronicintifada.net/…/jordan-branch-un-age…/15046

http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?ID=769216&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

 

Support Self Determination : Support RISE end of the year appeal 2015 :

RISE is managed, developed, staffed and controlled by people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

Dear Friends,

RISE prides itself on being a registered, not-for-profit organisation, and working tirelessly to improve non-government and government policies in relation to refugees/asylum seekers and to generate a positive social change for our community.

RISE is managed, developed, staffed and controlled by people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. Those who have first-hand experience of settling in Australia are giving back to the community by working to support new arrivals as well as people who have been struggling in the community for some time.

RISE represents and is connected with over 30 community groups (including Afghan, Burmese, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Iranian, Iraqi, Kenyan, Rohingya, Somali, Sudanese, Syrian and Tamil) in order to develop and create integrated projects.

At present there are over 2600 refugees and asylum seekers are registered to accesses some of our important services. We operate with some of the most under-serviced members of our society. You can support us by making a regular donation to keep our projects and services alive for our members.

Many are forced to live below the poverty line, being left with a mere $7 a day to cover transport, food and clothing costs. Those ineligible to access services are “left behind”, hindering their social development and adversely impacting their health and self-esteem.

In order to be able to assist members with any of the above services, we need to increase our resource capacity in these areas. Your donation will directly support our members in 5 key areas including,

1. Settlement Support Services
2. Job seeker / Training Services
3. A daily drop-in centre with a library, Food Bank and free internet services operating from 9.30am to 7.00pm
4. Educational programs
5. Food bank

How to Donate to RISE:

RISE is a tax-deductible organization and your financial support will enable us to assist refugees and asylum seekers in building their new lives in Australia. Your donation will assist our dedicated volunteers to provide services directly to children, adults and entire families in the refugee and asylum seeker communities.

To donate, please click here http://www.givenow.com.au/riserefugee

and

PayPal link for donation –  Click here (Tax receipt available on request)

Statement by Refugees, Asylum seekers and Ex-Detainees at RISE in solidarity with Indigenous communities in Australia

STOP THE FORCED CLOSURE OF ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES IN AUSTRALIA

RISE: Refugees Survivors and Ex-detainees condemn the current Australian government’s move to close down and dispossess over 150 Aboriginal communities in Australia.  We support the global call to action on the 27th of November 2015 by SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA and all actions initiated and directed by the affected Indigenous communities.

RISE is the first refugee and asylum seeker welfare and advocacy organisation in Australia, entirely governed by refugees, asylum seekers, and ex-detainees.  RISE is located in Melbourne, Victoria.

As settled and newly arrived refugee communities seeking protection and freedom, we acknowledge that we live on colonised land where the Indigenous peoples are the traditional owners and sovereignty was never ceded.

Racist, genocidal acts against First nations people in Australia have been carried out for over 200 years and the Australian government shamelessly continues to add more oppression by choosing to close down Indigenous communities one by one against their will.

We are not surprised by the hypocrisy of the Australian government which treats the Indigenous peoples in this country as second class citizens, yet uses its worldwide social status as “pro-democracy” and “pro-human rights” when it suits the agenda of White Australia. This is a never ending parody in Australia and we think it is time to say NO and put an end to it.

There are number of actions happening in Australia and around the World.

For more information about the events please see this link and show your support : https://www.facebook.com/sosblakaustralia and http://www.sosblakaustralia.com/

The Grand Delusion of Democracy in Myanmar – 23 November 2015

The Grand Delusion of Democracy in Myanmar –  by Australian Burmese Rohingya Organization (ABRO)

The National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar, led by Nobel peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has won the majority of available seats in Parliament according to the official results released by the Myanmar election commission. International observers claim that after 50 years of military rule, this is a “Transition to Democracy”. This article will explain why such claim is a Grand Delusion.

Despite this victory, the shadow of military dictator “retired” Senior General Than Shwe hangs over Myanmar. Not surprisingly, the so called “democratic” constitution crafted by the former military dictatorship in 2008, continues to serve the interests of the Junta. Myanmar’s military dictators have found alternative ways to camouflage military dictatorship as “civilian government”. They have succeeded in creating this illusion by changing their uniforms, forming a mock parliament and their own political party USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) from USDA (Union Solidarity Development Association) and creating an unamendable constitution. During the military dictatorship, USDA was an association lead by government officials with many of its members coerced into joining the association. Than Shwe appointed ex-military General Thein Sein as leader of USDP and President of Myanmar in November 2010. According to the constitution, 25% of parliamentary seats have to be reserved for representatives of the military. Constitutional amendments can only be made if more than 75% of the members agree to the changes.

The election commission itself has been appointed by military generals with a former lieutenant-general acting as commissioner. As this commission blithely released results indicating Aung San Suu Kyi as leader of the winning party should rightfully be President, legislation introduced by Than Shwe’s military regime in 2008 bars a democratically elected leader like Suu Kyi who has foreign relatives (her late husband and her two sons are British Citizens) from becoming President. Even if to circumvent this law, Suu Kyi nominates someone to take her place as President, her nominee will be answerable to the National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) who have the authority to override certain decisions made by the President. There is almost no escape from military rule in Than Shwe’s constitutional labyrinth with at least 5 of the 11 NDSC members having to be appointed by the Military Commander in Chief who in turn has to be appointed by the NDSC.

Just before the election held on 8th of November 2015, the Thein Sein government announced that the release of the official election results will be delayed indefinitely and power would be handed to the winner of the election by February next year. These delays give Thein Sein and his military backers further leeway to maintain or strengthen their power base regardless of the election result. After receiving the news of her election win, Aung San Suu Kyi is reported to have already sent letters to Thein Sein and he has not replied to any of these letters. There are also reports that Thein Sein’s representative said that, until the election commission has resolved all complaints regarding the election results, talks with the NLD leader will not happen.

So how do minorities fare in this “democratic” election? Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party has not contested in some constituencies in the Shan, Kachin and Chin states, as well as other areas of Myanmar which are under military control. One of the reasons being, the current government has used “security reasons” to prevent elections from being conducted in many of these areas. In Arakan state, the Rakhine National Development Party’s (RNDP) leader Dr. Aye Maung, the main perpetrator of violence against the Rohingya and other Muslim groups, has made a clean sweep in the election with the Myanmar government barring 1.3 million Rohingya and other Muslim groups from voting. This provides him with further opportunity to accelerate the expulsion of the entire Muslim community from the state.

The poster child of democracy herself, Ms. Suu Kyi, has taken sides with the majority, ignoring the minorities who have been supporting her for decades. Her party has ethnically cleansed itself of all Muslim members ahead of the election. For the first time in the history of Myanmar, there will be no Muslim parliamentarians. At this moment in time, the person who courageously fought for freedom and rights against Myanmar’s military dictatorship is fearful of losing majority support. It therefore follows that recent changes in the country are possible signs of the tyrannical rule of the military ending for the majority Buddhist people alone with the pathway to “freedom” being paved exclusively for them. The exclusion of the entire Muslim community including Rohingya, is a stereotype of ‘majority representative democracy’ or one could even call this aberration a ‘Muslim-free democracy’.

Myanmar’s “democratic transition” is simply ‘old wine in a new bottle’ produced by General Than Shwe and his cohorts. As the western nations throw their support behind these cosmetic changes they turn a blind eye to the ongoing genocide, the wars in northern and eastern Myanmar and the detention of political prisoners.

The perpetuation of this Grand Delusion of “Democracy” comes at a horrific cost to the people of Myanmar, particularly the Rohingya of Arakan state.

Call to Action:

1) The International Criminal Court (ICC) should investigate the ongoing crimes against humanity and genocide across Myanmar.

2) International communities should create a safe zone for Rohingya people and establish an independent Rohingya state within Arakan state while the central rulers, authorities and majority ethnic/religious group continues to segregate and push out the Rohingya people.

3) According to the responsibility to protect, the UN and its member countries should enforce appropriate conditions that ensure aid delivery reach the hands of victims on the ground in Arakan state, Shan state, Kachin state and other areas.

4) Myanmar should immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and thousands of Rohingya detained in and outside Arakan state.

5) Myanmar should immediately stop waging wars in Shan, Kachin states and other areas.

6) Myanmar should immediately cease segregation, discrimination and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya and other minorities including those from 42 concentration camps in Arakan state.

7) Myanmar should immediately lift the blockade on international aid supply in Arakan state, Shan state, Kachin state and other areas.

Note : This article was originally published by http://abro.org.au/

WHY BORDERS IMPACT ON US?

RISEI was released from detention two years ago, but I get lost by asking myself these Questions? It’s very sophisticated, because I ran from war into war! Struggling and striving for basic human rights, I discovered how oppression and xenophobic border policies impact on a human being? How peace is important for us in our daily life? Why self-determination and individual autonomy is really important for us?  You never discover this unless you experience going through the process of being a victim of war, occupation, oppression and are forced to seek protection and peace. Below questions are bothering me every single day.

Are all humans inherent worthy and valuable?

Why is there mental distress, isolation, depression, fear, hopeless, sleepless self-distraction, detention and intimidation of asylum seekers?

Who is illegal? Who is not illegal? Or no one is illegal?

Why the systemic death in custody in immigration detention centres?

Why there is no tangible solidarity between refugee and people of colour about marginalised people?

Why asylum seekers going through life being victim crossing borders?

Does this land “land down under “really belong to Indigenous people? Why not?

Is there any strategy to decrease suicide, stress, and anxiety, systemic death and torture in detention? Yes – by shutting all detention centres down and treating asylum seekers with respect and dignity.

By RISE Member / Ex-detainee who was detained in Offshore and Onshore detention centres

Death in Christmas Island-Who is responsible and accountable for deaths, torture and sexual violence in the Australian government’s immigration detention centres? – RISE Exclusive Media Release – 10/11/2015

Death in Christmas Island-Who is responsible and accountable for deaths, torture and sexual violence in the Australian government’s immigration detention centres?

#UnAccountableDeaths

Mr.Fazal Chegeni was a Kurdish refugee from Iran who died last Friday after escaping from the Christmas Island immigration detention camp in Australia run by multinational security company SERCO.  The cause of his death has not been made known.

Deaths are not unusual in the Australian government’s onshore and offshore detention camps which have a long history of no accountability whatsoever.  Australia’s World Press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders has been falling over the years due to the lack of transparency and access to these detention camps.

While we mourn the loss of one more person in our community, like previous deaths in detention, the Australian government and SERCO have failed to answer questions or take responsibility for Mr.Fazal Chegeni’s death.

Mr. Chegeni’s death occurred under the watch of the Australian government.  The only ‘improvement’ that can be made to immigration detention “facilities” is the closure of these concentration camps that have killed and maimed so many of our community members.

Ex-detainee and founder of RISE, Ramesh Fernandez said that “For the last 20 years there have been many unaccountable deaths in Australian-run detention centres.  Token inquiries have been carried out but nobody has ever been held accountable.”

“Refugees remain political pawns for politicians and a convenient source of income for detention contractors like Transfield Services or security companies like SERCO and Wilson Security.”

Mr. Fernandez further remarked that “At least 90 percent of people held in detention are people of colour and mostly refugees and asylum seekers.  Our black and brown bodies are not treated with respect and dignity in Australia because we are not seen as equal to white people”

“Support for detention centres is support for rape and death in custody as well as an inherently racist refugee policy.”

We urgently request the public to resist Australia’s xenophobic government policies by demanding greater transparency, fairness and humanity in the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and the closure of all detention centres.

Our basic demands are :

  1. Shutdown detention centres offshore and onshore
  2. Bring asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru, Manus and Christmas Island to mainland Australia.
  3. Process all asylum claims and visa applications fairly and humanely in the community

Finally we pay our condolences to the family and loved ones of Mr.Fazal Chegeni.

 

RISE Team
RISE : Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees

Criminalisation Of Our People

Criminalisation of our people by Australian government calling us [illegal] and decriminalisation of their people in order to maintain their interest is called [justice system].

Our people are the most vulnerable to sexualised torture, and rape! It is how our people become victims of crime, rape and death in detention on daily basis.

The reality is that most people have reached at the edge of self-destruction, suicide and mental illness involving depression, anxiety, traumatic stress and have experienced sexual assault and intimidation by security guards in detention.  Ex-detainees who are in the community are also intimidated by the department of immigration and border protection into signing of the so call  “code of conduct”.. which makes over-judgement of people before action of fact…which means prejudice and bias. This, obviously, is what I mean by criminalisation.

The Australian government has an oppressive system against people who arrived to Australia by boat, including myself, through dehumanisation and denial of our basic rights [right to seek asylum], in line with human rights and refugee conventions.

Ousted Prime Minister Tony Abbott made an arrogant speech in London, asking European leaders to “turn back boats”. “It will require some force, it will require massive logistics and expense; it will gnaw at our consciences,” Mr Abbott said. That is how the Australian government’s decriminalises their criminal Acts [injustice system in Australia].

RISE Member and Ex-detainee

 

 

 

10 things you need to consider if you are an artist – not of the refugee and asylum seeker community- looking to work with our community.

There has been a huge influx of artists approaching us in order to find participants for their next project. The artist often claims to want to show ‘the human side of the story’ through a false sense of neutrality and limited understanding of their own bias, privilege and frameworks.

1. Process not product
We are not a resource to feed into your next artistic project.  You may be talented at your particular craft but do not assume that this automatically translates to an ethical, responsible and self-determining process. Understand community cultural development methodology but also understand that it is not a full-proof methodology. Who and what institutions are benefiting from the exchange?

2. Critically interrogate your intention
Our struggle is not an opportunity, or our bodies’ a currency, by which to build your career. Rather than merely focusing on the ‘other’ (‘where do I find refugees’.. etc) Subject your own intention to critical, reflexive analysis. What is your motivation to work with this particular subject matter?  Why at this particular time?

3. Realise your own privilege
What biases and intentions, even if you consider these ‘good’ intentions, do you carry with you? What social positionality (and power) do you bring to the space? Know how much space you take up. Know when to step back.

4. Participation is not always progressive or empowering
Your project may have elements of participation but know how this can just as easily be limiting, tokenistic and condescending.  Your demands on our community sharing our stories may be just as easily disempowering. What frameworks have you already imposed on participation?  What power dynamics are you reinforcing with such a framework? What relationships are you creating (eg. informant vs expert, enunciated vs enunciator)

5. Presentation vs representation
Know the difference!

6. It is not a safe-space just because you say it is
This requires long term grass-roots work, solidarity and commitment.

7. Do not expect us to be grateful
We are not your next interesting arts project. Our community are not sitting waiting for our struggle to be acknowledged by your individual consciousness nor highlighted through your art practice.

8. Do not reduce us to an issue
We are whole humans with various experiences, knowledge and skills. We can speak on many things; do not reduce us to one narrative.

9. Do your research
Know the solidarity work already being done. Know the nuanced differences between organisations and projects. Just because we may work with the same community doesn’t mean we work in the same way.

10. Art is not neutral
Our community has been politicised and any art work done with/by us is inherently political. If you wish to build with our community know that your artistic practice cannot be neutral.

By Tania Canas, RISE Arts Director / Member

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