Author: Philip Feinstein

Refugee Council CEO’s concerns re Manus Island closure

With the imminent closure of Manus Island, The Australian government may find itself in a quandary. The local PNG population has not taken kindly to the refugees; the Americans are only looking at taking a small number, if any; and the balance have been given the poor choice of returning to their homeland and facing the dire consequences. Meanwhile the Australian population is not happy with the situation at all. The Chief Executive Officer of the Refugee Council of Australia*, Mr Paul Power, has pleaded with the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, in an especially poignant letter outlining many of the points needing immediate addressing. He reminded him that the fourth anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s decree of the ‘Regional Resettlement Arrangement’ had passed and resulted in over 2,000 people who sought Australia’s protection being sent to long term detention in PNG and Nauru. Apart from the psychological harm done to these human beings, Australian taxpayers have paid over $5 billion for the project and has a poor reputation within the international community. In addressing the fears of uncertainty and psychological suffering sustained by the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, Mr Power pointed out that “none of them has ever wanted to be in detention and all have constantly asked for their detention to end.” However, now that they are being told that they must leave the detention centre...

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Survey of visitors to detention centres

Many people visit Villawood and other detention centres throughout Australia to give stressed refugees some company, as well as news of the outside world.  Some of these visitors are ordinary people, while others are volunteers teaching art, music and other pleasantry and stress relieving activities The Refugee Council of Australia came to realise that things were not easy when it came to visiting centres and accordingly conducted a survey of challenges faced by people visiting immigration detention. The questions in the survey ranged from asking what barriers the visitors faced, what issues refugees in detention asked them, how effective...

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Learning about peace for Palestine and Israel

In January this year, a group of 22 Australian Jewish and Christian community leaders sat around a table with Dr Rami Hamdallah, the Palestinian Prime Minister, in Ramallah. Later that day they shared dinner with members of a group of Israeli and Palestinian ex-fighters, Combatants for Peace that works across borders for an end to the Occupation and to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.    So what brought the Australians to this part of the world and this kind of encounter? A few years ago tensions emerged between Uniting Church and Jewish organisations in Australia—specifically related to their positions on...

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Changing the conversation on refugees

The plight of refugees and asylum-seekers was the focus of a forum organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. The event was attended by around 100 members of the Jewish community. It was highlighted with speeches by two former refugees, Dor from South Sudan and Najib from Afghanistan (surnames withheld).  Dor came to Australia in 2003 via Ethiopia after suffering persecution in his home country. While fleeing ongoing torment he even had to face wild animals and illness including malaria and other fevers. The last leg of his journey was by plane. “I am now safe and happy...

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Palm Sunday Rally turns a bit sour

 The 2017 Palm Sunday Rally on 9 April commenced at Hyde Park in Sydney with a mostly positive crowd of about 4,000 supporters of refugees incarcerated in Australian detention centres, and gained momentum with some fabulous speakers.  Xuyen Pho, Salvation Army National Secretary and a Vietnam refugee from the late 1970’s, reminisced from his time coming to Australia. “No one seeking asylum gets on a leaky boat without desperation  –  ask yourself what drives someone to travel to an unknown destination without a compass in an open sea and without reliable navigation?” he asked rhetorically. “Banning people seeking refuge and...

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february, 2018

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