Winter 2018

Vincentians speak up for asylum seekers and refugees

Thousands of people, including members of the St Vincent de Paul Society and those representing the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), attended the Palm Sunday Walk on 25 March when it was held in capital cities and towns across Australia.

People of all faith groups attended the event and the Vinnies banner was proudly displayed by members attending the events in Canberra and Sydney.

In a statement CAPSA said it was important to keep up the momentum to demonstrate the growing concern across the community about the harsh and punitive treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. ‘Now more than ever Australians need to stand together for Justice for Refugees.’

Group of protestors.
Members of the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn Territory Council attended the Palm Sunday Walk in Canberra.

In June, the Society joined other community sector organisations in celebrating the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week. The theme for Refugee Week 2018 was #WithRefugees and the event was held from 18 to 24 June.

RoofOverMyHead: maintaining essential support for asylum seekers in Australia

In this year’s Refugee Week, a key focus of the Society’s advocacy was preventing drastic cuts to essential services and financial support for asylum seekers living in the community.

Since last year, the government has been progressively narrowing eligibility for Status Resolution Support Services (or SRSS) program. The SRSS program provides basic income support and essential services for asylum seekers living in the community. Further changes are planned that will mean that most of the 13,000 people currently on SRSS payments are at risk of losing all income support and will be forced to rely on charities such as the St Vincent de Paul Society for life-saving support. Many people, including families with children, will not be able to meet basic needs like rent, food, and medicine.

Group posed in a court yard of Parliament House.
The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia’s Director of Policy and Research, Corinne Dobson, seen here in the back row, third from the left, was among the civil society representatives to hold a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra during Refugee Week 2018 to bring attention to income support payment cuts affecting asylum seekers.

During Refugee Week, the Society collaborated with an alliance of community organisations to highlight the consequences of withdrawing essential support to asylum seekers, and to urge the Government to reverse its plans. This included participating in a joint delegation to Parliament House in Canberra and contributing to the release of a report highlighting the costs of cutting off support to asylum seekers.

Read the Society’s briefing note on the drastic cuts proposed for the Status Resolution Support Service Payments:

Ending offshore detention

After nearly five years of fear, violence and limbo, around 1,600 people still languish in desperate and dangerous conditions on Manus Island and Nauru.

In recent months, members of the St Vincent de Paul Society have visited Manus Island and directly witnessed the ongoing deterioration in physical and mental health due to inadequate medical attention, degrading living conditions, and perpetual uncertainty.

The Society urges the government to urgently resolve the situation and provide a safe, appropriate and permanent option for resettling those still on Manus Island and Nauru. In the interim, adequate healthcare, security and other critical services must be maintained.


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