Focus on 'Justice for Refugees' at Palm Sunday rallies

Focus on 'Justice for Refugees' at Palm Sunday rallies

Media Release
Social Justice
Asylum seekers

The need for the Albanese Government to deliver justice to thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and in offshore detention will be the focus of Palm Sunday rallies around the country on 24 March 2024.  

The theme for the event is “Justice for Refugees – Permanent Visas Now”. 

‘The Society appreciates that more than 12,000 people have received permanent visas after a decade living in uncertainty and disadvantage on temporary visas,’ said the National President of St Vincent de Paul Society, Mark Gaetani. 

‘However, we are very concerned that thousands of others are still unable to seek permanent protection. The ‘fast-track’ refugee assessment process is highly discriminatory, with many people destitute because they are unable to work and receive no government support. They must be fairly assessed and assisted if they are unable to work 

‘After a decade in limbo, over 1,000 people brought here from PNG and Nauru for medical treatment are still on temporary visas, most having no path to permanent settlement. They must be settled permanently.’ 

Mr Gaetani said the Society also continues to seek justice for those refugees and asylum seekers held offshore, notably those who’ve been in PNG for over a decade and are destitute and struggling with health  issues. They should be moved immediately to Australia while they await resettlement. 

'Palm Sunday is an ideal time to contemplate refugee issues, as Jesus himself was born in makeshift accommodation and later became a refugee in Egypt. During his time on Earth, Jesus emphasised the importance of helping all people in need, including those from other countries such as refugees and people seeking asylum. 

‘The Society’s founder, Frederic Ozanam, said we should not just help those in need but advocate on their behalf with those in power. This is what we continue to do. 

‘So many people are living in desperate circumstances, supposedly under Australia’s care. Most are living in the Australia community, and we should treat them in a more humane and compassionate way. 

‘In our submission to the Australian Government in advance of the 2024-25 Budget to be delivered in May, we detailed various policy changes that should be undertaken urgently to assist people seeking asylum,’ Mr Gaetani said.  

‘There should be an increase in base grant funding for Status Resolution Support Services to support asylum seekers who are unable to work, a review of the criteria to increase eligibility and a proper focus on the needs of individuals and families, rather than people being deemed ‘job ready’ when often they are not.  

‘The Government should ensure these people have a valid bridging visa with associated work and study rights and are linked to Medicare while they await decisions on their protection application, including by automating the bridging renewal process. 

‘Further, a separate budgetary line item should be established for Emergency Relief funding for people seeking asylum. 

‘These people have fled their homelands in fear of their lives and we are obliged legally and morally to offer sanctuary and provide the support they need while their claims are being considered. 

‘The Palm Sunday rallies across Australia are a wonderful human expression of these principles and we sincerely hope our parliamentary representatives will both hear and heed the calls for justice. 

‘The Society encourages its members and people of all faiths and goodwill to attend the Justice for Refugees rallies on Palm Sunday, 24 March, to share their views and send a strong message to the Australian Government that proper and compassionate action needs to be taken.’ 

Details of rallies in Australia are listed at Palm Sunday 2024 | Australian Refugee Action Network ARAN 

The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia consists of 45,000 members and volunteers who operate on the ground through over 1,000 groups located in local communities across the country.


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