Monthly Archives: June 2017

RISE: Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees boycotts “world refugee day and refugee week” for the fourth year running: 16/06/2017

RISE: Refugees,Survivors and Ex-detainees will be boycotting “Refugee week” and “World Refugee day” for the fourth year running in Australia. It would be unconscionable for us to partake in this macabre circus while the crisis of hyper militarisation and abuse faced by our communities across the world continues to escalate in catastrophic proportions. Particularly as these events have been appropriated as a PR exercise by various groups and individuals that feed into and profit from the xenophobic and racist anti-refugee system that impacts on our daily lives.

In 2017, Australia’s own “Department of Immigration and Border protection” (DIBP) continues to dedicate a page for Refugee Week 2017 on their website while they hold hundreds of our people captive in concentration camps in and outside Australia and push refugee boats back into the sea. Looking at DIBP’s website it is clear that their PR stunt on Refugee week cannot exist without images and voices of our people and we urge our communities to give thought before partaking in such activities. We should not be remembered once a year as passive entertainers to satisfy the public’s voyeuristic interest or to satisfy the diversity checklist while our community members are directly or indirectly endangered by these very same entities.

Australia marks its fifth year implementing the “No Advantage” policy, one of the most cruel and racist refugee policies. It resulted in the reopening of Nauru and Manus Island internment camps where there have been 7 deaths so far in addition to untold misery. We cannot forget that this policy was implemented after considering the advice of a cohort of “experts” that included Paris Aristotle, the CEO of Foundation House, a Torture Trauma counselling service for Refugees that still employs him in this position. Government and NGO bodies at various levels continue to shower Paris Aristotle with accolades: he was named “Victorian of the Year” by the Victorian government in 2016 and Officer of the Order of Australia in last week’s Queen’s Birthday Honours for “distinguished service to the refugee and asylum seeker sector through executive and advisory roles with a range of state and national organisations”. Last year Foundation house was one of the major sponsors of Refugee week, overseen and organised by the Refugee council of Australia. This lack of accountability is not something we can take lightly.

On the international stage, while using the bodies and voices of our people to promote themselves during World refugee day, UNHCR, the peak body responsible for refugee rights across the globe, has facilitated countries involved in mass deportations of Refugees such as Afghan Refugees in Pakistan. In 2016, 600 Sudanese Refugees who erected tents in front of the Jordanian UNHCR office were forcibly deported from Jordan. RISE has evidence of UNHCR in Indonesia denying Refugees freedom of access to their personal information. For more than a year, UNHCR Indonesia has refused a request from our advocacy team for information on why an Afghan refugee was rejected despite the fact that authorisation for access to this information had been provided. The office also refused to release the information directly to the person concerned. Indonesian refugee advocates have also confirmed that UNHCR routinely denies many other Refugees in Indonesia access to their own information. RISE members have also experienced this issue in UNHCR offices in other parts of the world.

It goes without saying that we have an ethical duty to question if initiatives like “Refugee week” or “World Refugee day”, overseen by organisations headed mainly by non-Refugees from countries that have been responsible for creating forced displacement in the first place, can truly represent the interests of Refugees. To quote our own ex-detainee demand number 8: “We demand, that countries that cause forced displacement are stripped from their decision-making position in the global humanitarian sector. It is an irrefutable fact that the countries that supply the largest proportion of the world’s weapons and military power and consume the largest proportion of the world’s natural resources, are located mainly in Europe and North America. These countries also have a disproportionate amount of decision making power in the humanitarian sector and take in one of the smallest proportions of forcibly displaced immigrants in the world.”

While there are global efforts by both governments and NGOs during “World Refugee Day” to make us sing, dance and perform for them as they momentarily “celebrate” our existence, thus far, we have not witnessed a global effort by these entities to stop feeding the deadly “border security” and military industrial complex, and provide safe passage and sanctuary for Refugees crossing borders.

If “Refugee week” or “World refugee day” is about us, it should be about OUR freedom, OUR voices, OUR lives, OUR future and OUR self-determination. RISE will not partake in, nor “celebrate” or endorse, any refugee events used as a cheap PR stunt that serves or prioritises non-refugee interests.

RISE : Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees.

Australia continues to bully and discriminate refugees by giving no option for protection – Ramesh Fernandez (25/05/2017)

The announcement by the Australian Government last Sunday to force refugees to lodge their applications by 1 October 2017 is merely more cruel, calculated, systemic discrimination.

The Coalition Government is targeting refugees who have arrived in Australia by boat during the period between August 2012 until the end of 2013. Over 7000 asylum seekers are caught in this discriminative ‘Fast Track’ process.

We should not forget that Labor designed this offshore policy with the help of a three-member ‘expert panel’ including Foundation House CEO, Paris Aristotle.

We all know that the ‘fast track’ process offers no protection, only guaranteed unfair treatment. We should also not forget that the Australian government has deliberately cut funding to legal services assisting refugees. Under the ‘fast track’ process, there is minimum support for refugees’ claims but maximum discrimination; this process is designed to make it impossible to seek protection.

Three weeks ago, the Australian Government announced a vicious attack on refugees and migrants via proposals for a revised citizenship test. Just one week after that, the Australian government targeted refugees in offshore detention centres, forcing refugees and asylum seekers to either resettle in PNG or self-deport.

Now, the Australian government is turning its attention to refugees onshore. Peter Dutton has justified this process by whipping up hysteria around “fake refugees” while also refusing to disclose the number of boat arrivals to Australia and deporting refugees back to danger.

No refugees want to be left in limbo. The Australian government has not provided proper legal or community support for refugees who arrived during 2012/13. They were kept in the community without opportunities to seek protection and had their cases were mishandled by the Department of immigration.

Now the government wants to target the backlog of unprocessed refugees because our communities are the most vulnerable and helpless. Refugees should be allowed to seek protection and should be provided adequate support to seek protection, not punished for how we arrive to this country.

RISE Media Release : Call to immediately bring back Refugees and Asylum seekers trafficked by Australia to Manus and Nauru (17/5/2017)

RISE members including offshore and onshore ex-detainees strongly condemn the current move by Papua New Guinea immigration officials to force refugees and asylum seekers to resettle in PNG or self-deport. This move has been made with the announcement that they will be closing down the Australian government’s Manus Island detention camp by October 31, 2017.

The re-opening in 2012 of so called “regional processing centres” in Manus Island and Nauru by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard and immigration minister Chris Bowen has resulted in 7 deaths so far. Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers trafficked to Manus and Nauru by the Australian government have experienced abuse and neglect on these islands.

Former offshore and onshore detainee, Ramesh Fernandez says “These camps cannot be called ‘processing centres’. Australian run offshore refugee camps are a modern form of concentration camps. How do you call this a ‘processing centre’ when you get locked up 24/7, tortured and humiliated constantly. We should not forget that in November 2015 over ‪600 refugees and asylum seekers in Manus Island detention camp wrote to Australian PM and immigration minister Peter Dutton calling for mass assisted suicide‬. This is evidence that refugees and asylum seekers are unable to continue their lives in Manus.”

“Furthermore”, Ramesh Fernandez says, “due to the lack of transparency in these Australian run detention camps, refugee cases have been mishandled, unfairly dismissed and processed without proper adherence to refugee rights protocol. Providing Manus detainees with the impossible ultimatum of settling in PNG or returning to their countries pushes unfairly rejected asylum seekers as well as those who have not been rejected to self-deport to danger.”

We say enough is enough! It is the Australian government who deported our community members to torture camps in Manus and Nauru. It is not for survivors of racist, state sanctioned abuse to clean up this unlawful mess. We demand that the Australian government immediately end the cycle of torture: Close these camps permanently and bring all survivors back to Australia for resettlement with proper support services. This is the very least that should be done to compensate for damage done to our communities by criminal actions of the Australian government and its proxies.

Media Contact : Abdul Baig , 03 9639 8623
RISE : Refugee Survivors and Ex-detainees

Proposed citizenship test simply a pathway to a new White Australia policy : 24/04/2017

Proposed citizenship test simply a pathway to a new White Australia policy – Ramesh Fernandez

The announcement of a new citizenship test by the Australian Government clearly discriminates against people coming from non-English speaking backgrounds. It is also a direct attack on refugee community groups. With this announcement, the government is saying “if you can’t speak English, go back to where you came from”.

This move also pushes people from vulnerable communities into deeper trouble, and leaves them in a state of limbo.

The existing citizenship test is already pointless, tricky and a big mess: it has made many refugees’ lives more traumatic and has decreased their mobility and safety. This is a strategy by the government to add more barriers to these people becoming citizens, clearly targeting people of colour with Hanson-style rhetoric.

When we talk about “Australian values”, have we forgotten that we live on occupied territory, and that refugees are permanently discriminated against? When the PM uses the phrase “Australian values”, he is unofficially re-introducing the White Australia policy, and continuing to undermine Indigenous sovereignty. There have been a number of refugees waiting on their citizenship test for over four years, as well as some who passed the test but were simply never invited for their citizenship ceremony.

Learning a new language is not something that happens overnight – especially for those from older generations who seek protection in Australia. This sort of anti-migrant rhetoric will add more layers to the trauma of refugees and asylum seekers who already come from persecuted backgrounds.

Saying you must speak English in order to become a citizen makes clear who you are prioritising as being worthy of becoming Australian citizens: white people and people privileged enough to have learned English. This violates one of the universal declarations of human rights that prohibits discrimination against people based on the language they speak.

Turnbull clearly takes cues from Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson – this is a direct attack on people of colour. We should not forget that the current government is trying to introduce a life-time ban on refugees coming by boat. This type of anti-migrant strategy no doubt will soon become a ban on Muslims coming and refugees settling here, similar to the US.

After British colonisation, migrants were brought to so-called Australia as indentured labour and like the Indigenous peoples of the land, many of them could not speak English or any other European language. It suited the white colonial strategy of that time. The same people, or others alike, now living in this society have suddenly become a problem for them.

Who is working in your restaurants? Who is doing the labour on your farms? Who runs your cafés? Who are your second generation migrant children working in your hospitals and law firms that were brought up by non–English speaking parents? Will you refuse their labour on the basis that they don’t speak English? Is it acceptable to exclude these people from society?

Furthermore, the Prime minister’s statement that the citizenship test would include questions on domestic violence trivialises a deep rooted problem that pervades through all communities in this country. You cannot eradicate domestic violence with multiple choice questions on a test. This area needs systemic change and funding. Conflation of the issue of domestic violence with a citizenship process that causes further exclusion of people of colour, is racist and completely deflects from the government’s own failure in eradicating domestic violence. According to our PM Malcolm Turnbull, domestic violence is an introduced species.

Australia wants to breed a white-only society under the guise of so called “multiculturalism” and it is clear that the strategy of our government is to limit and restrict people of colour in settling in Australia.

Letter from an Ex-detainee

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.

Two refugees set themselves on fire in offshore camps. One of the main precipitating reasons for their action was indefinite detention as well as other abusive refugee policies.

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 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!

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.

Before you donate to a refugee nonprofit agency, you need to consider the following items to check whether they are ethical or not:

1. Is the organisation run by the affected people?
2. Does the cause directly support the affected people?
3. Does the organisation support or have they supported or worked/invested in detention centres?
4. What is their position on mandatory detention policy in Australia? Note: if they say they support detention centres doesn’t matter even 1 day or 1 month, do not support that organisation
5. Whether the affected people are in-charge of the organisation?
6. What proportion of people hired by the organisation are of refugee background?
7. Are refugees being used as a token gesture to promote the organisation?
8. History of the organisation and individuals in charge, such as, how long they have been working with refugees & what impact they have had on the refugee self determination process.
9. Is the organisation affiliated with any political parties or driven by political agendas that run counter to the interests of refugees?
10. How does the organisation support the refugee self determination process in the long term & short term?
11. Whether the organisation receives funding from the Department of immigration in any capacity-thereby creating a conflict of interest.

Written by ex-detainee and RISE member, Hisam

RISE Press Release : NO We Ex-detainees, Asylum Seekers and Refugees do NOT Support Invasion Day. (23/01/2017)

RISE Press Release Re-“Australia Day” aka Invasion day 2017

NO We Refugees, Ex-detainees and Asylum Seekers do NOT Support Invasion Day.

As refugee communities seeking protection and freedom on this land we acknowledge that we live in occupied territories where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the traditional owners and where sovereignty has never been ceded. ‘Always was, always will be Aboriginal land’

RISE represents over 30 refugee community groups in Australia and being the first registered, non-profit refugee organisation in Australia led and managed by refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees, RISE declares that we do not endorse any movement or individuals who claim to be pro-refugee but celebrate “Australia Day” aka Invasion Day on the 26th of January.

We believe this systemic abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a result of over 200 years of discrimination as part of the white colonial genocide strategy that continues to this day.

RISE founder, ex-detainee and CEO Ramesh Fernandez said “When you tell your kids what “Australia Day” means, would you tell them it was the day people celebrate white occupiers coming to Australia and colonising the land of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples which resulted in genocide, the slaughter, dispossession and continuous discrimination of Indigenous communities upto this day? Or will you teach them to perpetuate lies after lies to cover up colonial occupation and genocide?”

RISE especially requests that refugee and ex-detainee community groups in Australia NOT participate in any “Australia Day” event that celebrates the barbaric practice of genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Further Mr.Fernandez added “As survivors of occupation, rape, torture and oppression we should not undermine the struggle for survival that other oppressed community groups face. We should respect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their sovereignty. It is not a day to poster yourself on a billboard, dance, sing or wrap a flag around yourself that represents occupation, colonisation and genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia”.

We fully support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples sovereignty and self-determination and stand in solidarity with them everyday. Invasion Day is another day for colonial gimmicks, post-colonial love and racism in Australia for people who still believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples don’t own this land or don’t exist.

What can you do?

Support Invasion Day rally
Melbourne
Sydney
Brisbane
Perth
Adelaide

Donate / Amplify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples-led movements and organisations

Grandmothers Against Removals
WAR
IndigenousX
Justice For Julieka Dhu
Hey Sis, we’ve got your back
SOS BLAK AUSTRALIA
Black Rainbow Living
Family Violence Prevention Legal Service
Latoya Rule
​First Nations Telegraph
Rebuild Aboriginal community that Burnt down
Justice for Kevin Henry

The above list was given to us by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members who support/work with RISE. If you would like to add any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples-led organisations to this list please email admin@risrefugee.org

Finally, we thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia who have been supporting refugee self-determination and standing in solidarity with our community groups every day.

With Solidarity

Sovereignty + Sanctuary: A First Nations / Refugee Solidarity Event held in 2016

RISE Team