Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Rally for Refugees from home

On Palm Sunday this week people across the country will urgently raise their voices so that refugees and asylum seekers will not be forgotten in our fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

A great justice tradition in Australia is that on Palm Sunday every year thousands of people take to the streets to call for a more compassionate response to refugees.

This Sunday, instead of gathering for rallies and marches in major cities, people are finding new and creative ways to raise their voices together.

Many of the organised Palm Sunday rallies are going ahead as online events and advocacy will take place across social media.

In the last week, refugee advocates have appealed to the Federal Government to ensure protections against COVID-19 extend to refugees and asylum seekers, and in particular that people in crowded detention centres are moved to places where physical distancing can be observed.

President of the Uniting Church Dr Deidre Palmer has written to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison to seek his assurance that the 1.5 million people living in Australia on temporary or bridging visas will have access to healthcare and income support.

In particular, Dr Palmer stressed the importance of ensuring asylum seekers in the community have access to Medicare so they can and will seek help if they think they might have the virus.

“The situation for people living in Australia on temporary or bridging visas during this health crisis is urgent, and a direct response to their plight by the Australian Government will be an important measure to complement the strong measures already taken,” Dr Palmer wrote.

These concerns were echoed in a letter from the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and National Council of Churches in Australia, noting that many of this cohort are already dependent on charities for necessities.

The Refugee Council of Australia called an extraordinary meeting with organisations across the country to bring together their concerns. Their most urgent priorities were:

  1. Move people urgently out of crowded immigration detention facilities
  2. Ensure a financial safety net and Medicare access for all in Australia
  3. Prevent people losing legal status and access to support
  4. Move refugees and people seeking asylum from PNG and Nauru

RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power noted, “With the international movement of people grinding to a halt, we need to take care of everyone now in Australia, knowing that the health of all of us is directly connected to how we treat the most vulnerable.”

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

How you can still participate in Palm Sunday for Refugees:

  • Attend an online event
    Walk for Justice for Refugees, 11am
    Online Palm Sunday Solidarity Event: For a Just Future, 1pm, WA
  • Take a photo of yourself with a sign such as REFUGEES ARE WELCOME HERE  and/or  #JUSTICE FOR REFUGEES and send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and or post to social media with the #justice4refugees
  • Put the sign you made outside your home or in a window to raise public awareness. Take a photo and share it.
  • Share a message about justice for refugees in your Sunday sermon or service. Resources included recorded presentations are here
  • Contact your local Members of Parliament to remind them of our duty to support the most vulnerable, particularly people facing destitution in our country as a result of these circumstances. See suggested points to raise in your letter.
  • Sign a petition
    Asylum Seekers Resource Centre: https://bit.ly/2J3Iacs
    Human Rights for All: https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-spread-of-covid-19-in-immigration-detention-centres-saferathome?
  • Participate in the Canberra Refugee Action Campaign Week of Online Action
  • Display a Give Hope Campaign banner. Banners can be purchased from the NSW/ACT Synod
  • Schooling at home? Here’s a refugee curriculum package for teachers and parents based around a short story by a teacher on Nauru