Refugees, asylum seekers and ex-detainees were called for a meeting with a government subcontracted community settlement service provider yesterday and told there will be a “national census” and you all need to provide information. When refugees asked for help due to lack of computer knowledge and communication barriers they were simply told they are “really busy” and can’t help. The meeting was conducted without proper interpreters and inadequate information was provided regarding the census.

A RISE member said that they did not understand what was being said and people were really confused as to whether this matter was related to the department of immigration and border protection (DIBP) or not. The RISE member asked “If the government is pouring our community money to these agencies, what are they doing with it? Are they meant to be helping us or helping themselves?”

When the RISE member called the census information line to access more information, they were directed to “unknown” areas and the line cut off twice. Further, the RISE member added – “we don’t even know how to dial the correct number because of the lack of information given to us, so how are we going to report to the Census? Is the Census only for people from English-speaking background only? What about people like us who speak more than four or five languages, not English? This discriminates against all of us refugees and asylum seekers in the community – we are not getting enough support from government subcontracted community settlement agencies paid to help us or even from the department organising the census.”

Lastly, RISE is alarmed that according to privacy experts the new system used to gather and store census data places the privacy of those who give their personal information at serious risk. Most of our members are seeking protection from some of the most oppressive regimes in the world that have resources to access the most sophisticated data surveillance techniques in the world. The Australian Bureau of Statistics claims that there is no risk to privacy. However, this does little to allay our fears as thousands of our community members in Australia have already been severely impacted by a data breach by the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection.


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