A very special meeting in support of refugees took place on Thursday 22 February at the Marrickville Town Hall organised by The Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS).

The speakers addressed around 200 refugee supporters about their serious quandary: In NSW there are 1,100 refugees seeking legal advice and RACS can only help 100 of them.

These men, women and children need critical legal support to prepare for interviews with the Department of Home Affairs. These interviews will decide whether they can remain in Australia or risk being returned to danger.

This special event commenced with MC Charles Firth, comedian, writer, and filmmaker, opening the meeting and reminding us of the importance of the occasion.

Then on the stage came The Choir of Love – a Sydney based community choir with members from Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Iraqi backgrounds. They comprise Iraqi refugee members and recently performed at the Sacred Music Festival in Parramatta.

Darcy Byrne, Mayor of the Inner West Council, then welcomed everyone, reaffirming the council’s ongoing support of RACS.

In thanking everyone for coming, Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, RACS Executive Director said, “We have a goal and we have a vision. We should band together as a community to help those who really need support.”

She pointed out that the Government had indicated a deadline for all interviews and why this work is really urgent.

“We have until the end of March to raise the funds to make a life-changing difference to people’s lives – we are their last hope,” she warned.

“Refugees can make a big difference to Australia” stated Yarrie Bangura who came here as a refugee thirteen years ago, speaking no English and fleeing persecution in Sierra Leone.

Now she is a writer, public speaker, textile designer, visual performing artist, and UNHCR spokesperson working with Settle Services International.

Three-time Walkley award winning Guardian journalist Ben Doherty spoke about his work reporting on challenges facing refugees and what motivates him to focus on this issue.

Then came Ben Doherty, reporter for Guardian Australia and formerly the Sydney Morning Herald. Three-time Walkley Award winner for his foreign and immigration reporting, Ben spoke of the importance of the work that is done by RACS and how the public can assist.

Sarah Dale, Principal Solicitor of RACS, began by looking back at her work before RACS.

“After years of working with this community it became apparent that if I wanted to make a difference, if I wanted to really assist – the plaguing issue is and would always be – the golden ticket, the keys to the door, the route to safety, the visa,” she said.

“For the people we serve, a visa means life. It means safety, it means stability,” she further added.

RACS Principal Solicitor Sarah Dale and Executive Director Tanya Jackson-Vaughan at pictured at Sydney Airport trying to prevent the forced removal of a client to Sri Lanka.

Arash Bordbar, 24 year-old former refugee from Iran, is studying a Bachelor of Engineering Honours at the Western Sydney University.

In December 2016 he was awarded the Young Australian Human Rights Medal by Australia Human Rights Commission.

Arash pointed to his new project called Future Focused where he helps young people. “Australia is certainly the land of opportunity,” he said.

A very exciting evening concluded with more music from The Choir of Love before the final call for funding for RACS.

“It is very important for us to remember that we are all in the same team of helping refugees,” Tanya Jackson-Vaughan said.

“These people are in a desperate situation and it is us who can make a difference,” she concluded.

Readers of the Australasian Muslim Times can also lend their support by donating to RACS on https://www.racs.org.au/