Justice for Refugees SA (J4RSA) will hold a members’ forum this month to discuss the fallout from the re-election of the Coalition Government, and what it means for refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and offshore.
Describing the election result as “pretty shocking”, J4RSA chair Rev Sandy Boyce (pictured) said the challenge would be to keep members motivated and committed to the cause.
“People will say it is too hard…how do you sustain a reasoned action when it feels like there is a block that cannot be overcome. For many of the supporters, maintaining that kind of hope will be challenging. We just need to pull up our sleeves and keep on going, we can’t abandon these people.”
According to Rev Boyce, there were a number of suicide attempts on Manus Island following the election result.
“Because how can they sustain hope for any positive outcome for their lives when the Government is not prepared to frame a positive pathway for them? Technically they could be stuck in this limbo for the rest of their lives,” she said.
“I was most despondent (about the election result) because the Morrison Government has made it very clear what they are not prepared to do, rather than what positively they are able to do.
“Their stated position is to repeal the Medevac Bill – which will probably get blocked in the Senate – but nevertheless they are coming from a punitive perspective, rather than saying these people are our responsibility and how do we make sure they have some kind of life going forward.”
Rev Boyce said it was also expected that changes to the Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) program would mean thousands of asylum seekers would be denied the financial and practical support they need, as very few would fit the restrictive criteria being imposed by the Morrison Government.
“If it wasn’t for community organisations and churches those people would be destitute,” she said.
“This is at a time when the wider community is doing it pretty tough as well. It’s draining on those who have been generous because how do you keep that generosity going when there is a shrinking number of people able to provide support?”
The members’ forum, to be held during Refugee Week on the evening of Tuesday June 18, will look at post-election strategies, and ways J4RSA can plan for the future and be proactive in advocating for changes in policy.
Rev Boyce said it was important members of the community didn’t give up hope.
“The vulnerability of the people both onshore here and on Manus and Nauru – they are depending on people using their voices and influence to bring about change, because they can’t do it themselves.”
Rev Boyce said if she had five minutes with Prime Minister Morrison she would ask him to remember his maiden speech in parliament, in which he spoke “with passion about kindness and compassion” and to “invoke his Christian faith to talk about his values and the dignity of people”.
“I would hold up a mirror for him to see that a humane response to asylum seekers and refugees springs directly out of our Christian commitment and the example of Jesus, who was of course himself a refugee.
“This is about Christian values of hospitality, compassion and justice.”
Rev Boyce added that the Adelaide community could show its support for the 930 people left on Manus and Nauru by attending the vigil held every Friday evening outside Parliament House.
While also disappointed by the election result, the national Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said it was not a defeat but rather a “call to action”.
“We will only fight harder for people seeking asylum and be even more fearless,” said CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM.
“We have built a strong movement of caring, compassionate Australians, and now more than ever, we need to not just hold our ground but push forward with a new even more compassionate and courageous agenda.”
The not-for-profit organisation will send a delegation to Canberra this month to lobby the Morrison Government and the crossbench to change the policy on asylum.