Monthly Archives: April 2016

Letter from an Ex-detainee 29/04/2016

As an ex-detainee I do not support any form of mandatory detention. As ex-detainees, we continue to suffer from mandatory detention and institutionalised forms of torture. For more than 20 years our communities have experienced death in detention, inhumane and degrading treatment at the hand of the Australian government and we continue to face serious abuses, censorship and mistreatment.

For over 20 years the Australian government has been decriminalising detention policies and breaching their international obligations as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. They have totally and absolutely failed in their moral and international obligations.

The recent decision by the PNG Supreme Court has found that the Manus Island detention centre is illegal. Their decision means this: that it is unlawful to detain people seeking asylum in indefinite detention and that seeking asylum is not a crime but a human right.

Three days ago, a refugee set himself on fire in Nauru. One of the main precipitating reasons for his action was his indefinite detention as well as other abusive refugee policies resulting in his death.

Australia’s “Refugee policy” should be called the “Self-destruction policy”, where we are driven to destroy ourselves. Systemic torture of detainees has resulted in serious self-harm and suicide, ever since the Australian government established Detention Centres.

The Immigration minister Peter Dutton said “the approach of this government is not going to change. We are not going to allow people to settle in our country who seek to come here by boat”. Obviously we are not criminals, we are seeking protection. We are those who have been forcibly displaced and are fleeing persecution. The Australian government should treat detainees/refugees with respect and dignity.

As ex-detainees we believe the PNG Supreme Court decision was an ethical and legal decision and I also highly recommend that the Australian government should close detention camps and release all detainees into the community. No one should be deported to danger where they face persecution again! We have been affected by detention policy and this is enough!

While I’m writing this I heard the news that Omid has passed away in a Brisbane Hospital. Is it just a death? Or was he forced to kill himself? And now who is accountable for it? Why don’t our lives matter to most people in this country? Now Omid’s wife is a widow – who is going to provide her with emotional support?

Finally I must say-Shut down all detention centres both offshore and onshore and release everyone to the community.

By RISE Member and Ex-detainee
Author of this article was in detention for 1 year including offshore and onshore.

Australian government run camp in Manus Island is illegal says PNG Court-Bring back ALL asylum seekers and refugees held hostage in Manus and Nauru! 28/04/2016

RISE:Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees, welcomes the PNG court decision declaring that the Manus Island detention camp run by the Australian government is illegal. However, Australia has a history of dirty politics and disregarding pro-refugee laws. We are cautious regarding tactics the Australian government and their proxies within the PNG government are likely to use to continue the illegal abuse of refugees and asylum seekers abducted and trafficked from Australia to PNG by the Australian border force and held hostage on this island.

Since the Manus Island and Nauru detention camps were re-established by the Gillard government in 2012, men, women and children arriving by boat to Australia to seek asylum have been trafficked to these Pacific Islands. There have been two detainee deaths in Manus Island and numerous reports of cruel and degrading treatment, including rape and sexual abuse of refugees and asylum seekers on both islands.

We should not forget that Australia has been found guilty of 150 violations of international law over the indefinite detention of 46 refugees within its own borders, but there has been no effort by the government to make systemic changes to ensure such violations do not occur again and hold accountable those responsible for these violations. Is the PNG court decision, supporting the human rights of refugees, another decision that the Australian government will undermine?

During the last few weeks, some of the Manus Island detainees were given refugee status and separated from “rejected” asylum seekers into a pre-release camp. However, this process is clearly arbitrary when one considers that refugee status was granted to Kurdish Journalist and Manus detainee Behrouz Bouchani who refused to give his file for processing in PNG as he was trafficked like all the other detainees, from Australia to PNG, against his will and did not choose to be resettled in PNG. Mr. Bouchani rightfully refuses to move into the “pre-release” camp. We are also fearful of the serious risk of forced deportations to danger of asylum seekers arbitrarily “rejected” to clear the camp and shut it down.

RISE calls on Australia and other state parties who have been involved in the abduction and trafficking of asylum seekers and refugees to PNG and Nauru, to follow the rule of law and help bring them all back to Australia, release them into the community and process their claims humanely and fairly.

RISE:Refugees, Survivors and Ex-detainees Team
(28/04/2016)

Forty years since the first refugee boat arrived in Australia from Vietnam

On the 26th of April 1976, the first boat of Vietnamese people sought refuge in Australia. Forty years on and Vietnamese people continue to flee Vietnam by boat today. It is estimated that there are currently 800 Vietnamese asylum seekers detained in either on-shore or off-shore detention centres or living in the community in Australia. Most are fleeing from religious and political persecution and are victims of various human rights violations at the hands of the Communist Party of Vietnam – the ruling party of the one-party state.

Despite the widespread evidence of human rights violations and the persecution of religious people and political dissidents in Vietnam, the Australian government continues to deport Vietnamese asylum seekers back to danger. As recently as last week, four Vietnamese asylum seekers whose claims for asylum were rejected by the Australian government in April last year, were sentenced by Vietnamese authorities to 2-3 years in jail. It is anticipated that the crime of ‘organising an escape from Vietnam’ will be used against future refouled Vietnamese asylum seekers.

RISE implores all politicians, particularly those who represent and are voted in by a large Vietnamese constituency, to speak out against the treatment of Vietnamese asylum seekers by the Australian government and to call for their permanent protection in Australia.

Further, RISE condemns the Australian government for the cruel and degrading treatment of not just Vietnamese asylum seekers but all asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia since 1976 and who continue to arrive today.

One of the most harmful policies that impacts upon the lives of asylum seekers is mandatory detention, introduced in 1992 to deter and detain Vietnamese refugees fleeing by boat.

RISE stands firmly against such arbitrary, racist and inhumane policies, which legislate to indefinitely detain brown and black people fleeing from persecution. If the Australian government is to act in accordance with its international obligations, it must end mandatory detention and ensure the assessment of all refugees within the community.

50 asylum seeker families trapped for hours in Melbourne CBD by Immigration Department 18/04/2016

Are we human or what?

As refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees who make up RISE we condemn the inhumane treatment of asylum seeker families this morning when they were trapped and corralled by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border protection (DIBP) at the Multicultural Hub (Drill Hall), Melbourne from 9am to around 2pm.

One week ago, the Department of Immigration sent out a text (below) to several asylum seeker families and requested they bring photo ID, birth certificates and “food”. When the families arrived they were told they were being detained and were not allowed to leave the building for two hours.

image

We were told by our members that there were at least 50 families with children who were divided into 7 groups according to languages/background and were informed of their detention at the venue.

One mother, a RISE member and ex-detainee, said “there were about 50 families and we were locked down for two hours, with two guards”.

The oldest baby is reported to be around 1 year old – with most of the children ranging from 1- 12 months old. Another mother who is also an ex-detainee and RISE member said “most of the children started crying and we were treated like caged animals, we were scared to say anything and thought we were going to deported somewhere.”

Around 1.30pm an Immigration official is reported to have said “Now I’m going to grant bridging visas for your kids but before you leave you need to clean the place, otherwise we will not give you visas.” All asylum seekers were asked to line up and were handed a bridging VISA document at the door.

One member told us that “I was so scared to even ask questions…even ask whether we can feed our babies and it was a very traumatic experience”.

RISE members told us that “there were no facilities whatsoever for the kids and we were expected to manage being detained for hours in a empty hall with one toilet.”

Former ex-detainee and RISE founder Ramesh Fernandez said “Australian refugee policies are designed to abuse and torture refugees and asylum seekers coming on boats, and to further treat them as less than human when they try to settle into normal lives. These people were lured into a trap and treated like animals.”

He further added “This is just one example of the brutal practices of Australian immigration detention guards, border force and immigration officials that we refugees have been experiencing for over twenty years in this so called democratic country – both ‘onshore’ and ‘offshore.’”

RISE Team

Tutoring Program Volunteer

Position Description
Division: Tutoring Program
Title: Tutoring Program Volunteer
Work Type: 1 day a week (Saturday, 4 hours)
Location: Melbourne, Victoria
Apply:  volunteer@riserefugee.org

About the project:

RISE’s Tutoring program utilises a curriculum set by Language Leader. This program is highly recommended by EAL (English as an Additional Language) teachers and provides a logical and thought-provoking approach to learning English. The program also helps students to develop their analytical and communication skills, so they are better able to utilise their English language knowledge.

Classes will be held at ‘the RISE Hub’, a multi-purpose space run by RISE situated in central Melbourne. The space is equipped with desks, chairs, computers, as well as English dictionaries and books suitable for EAL learning.

By running the Tutoring program, we aim to allow the participants a smoother transition into education and employment. The Tutoring program runs once a week on Saturday mornings. Each volunteer tutor sits with a small group of students of similar abilities and work through grammar, speaking, reading and listening exercises based around a different theme each week.

Furthermore, our aims upon completion of the classes are to see an improve social inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers into Australian communities, therefore not only breaking down social stigmas and relieving pressures of social isolation, but creating an overall increase in the quality of life of people while education has been disrupted by forced displacement.

Responsibilities of the volunteer:

  • Being consistent and reliable in attending English classes (Saturday mornings 10:00am -12:30pm)
  • Tutor the same group of students each session to build rapport and improve learning outcomes.
  • Provide constructive feedback for classes and students
  • Comply with maintaining confidentiality and privacy of RISE members
  • Must have valid Police and Working with Children checks
  • Teaching experience is desirable but not essential

Knowledge & Skill Requirement:

  • Ability to report to the Central Executive Committee
  • Capacity to work and handle complex cases
  • Sound knowledge of the housing, employment, as well as the refugee and asylum seeker sector
  • Demonstrate positive values of integrity, teamwork, reliability and consistent with RISE objectives and aims
  • Experience working in deadline-driven environments
  • Able to work well in a team environment, handle multiple assignments and meet deadlines

Only applications with a cover letter and answering the key selection criteria will be considered.

Applications close 5pm, 21st of April 2016

Please Note: RISE is a refugee-governed organisation and first priority will be given to refugee and asylum-seeker applicants.

RISE TEAM