Monthly Archives: May 2015

NSW signs up to place refugees in regional areas on five-year visas

May 31, 2015 | theguardian

Scheme introduced by federal government as an alternative to temporary protection visas criticised for lacking pathway to permanent residency.

Mike Baird has announced NSW is prepared to take ‘more than our fair share’ of refugees prepared to live and work in regional areas.

Mike Baird has announced NSW is prepared to take ‘more than our fair share’ of refugees prepared to live and work in regional towns. Photograph: Stefan Postles/AAP

Refugees in New South Wales will potentially be able to access five-year temporary visas if they agree to move to regional towns, as part of a new visa scheme introduced with federal government legislation late last year.

However critics have raised concerns about the lack of available detail and pathways to permanent residency within the scheme.

The NSW government is the first to sign up in principle to the federal safe haven enterprise visa (Shev) scheme, which gives people assessed to be refugees the opportunity to gain five-year visas if they are prepared to work or study outside of cities – Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW’s case.

“As Australia’s economic powerhouse, NSW has an obligation to open its arms to those who are genuine refugees,” the premier, Mike Baird, said in a statement, adding that the state stood ready to “take more than our fair share”.

Tony Abbott urges cabinet to stop leaking as Labor maintains poll lead – politics live
Prime minister lays down law to cabinet in a ‘come to Jesus’ moment after row over citizenship. Labor remains in front post-budget in the latest Newspoll. All the developments from Canberra, live
Read more
He said the scheme would help provide labour in NSW regions and provide longer term security for asylum seekers.

NSW’s introduction of the Shev scheme is pending final agreement with the federal government, and a memorandum of understanding is being negotiated that will cover the cost of support services for visa holders, Guardian Australia was told.

The Shev scheme was introduced as part of the federal government’s Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload Bill, which passed late last year, and is an alternative to the three-year temporary protection visas.

“The purpose of safe haven enterprise visas is both to provide protection and to encourage enterprise through earning and learning while strengthening regional Australia,” read the bill.

Advertisement

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection website does not provide details on how to apply for a Shev, indicating only that information will be made available. It does not include family reunion or re-entry to Australia provisions.

It was revealed in a Senate hearing in November a range of other legislation would have to be introduced to ensure Shev holders could transition to other visa types.

In his statement Baird urged the federal government “to provide a clear pathway to permanent residency for Shev holders who uphold the rules and make a contribution to regional communities.”

Amnesty International Australia has said the Shevs “will deny a large number any chance of permanent residency”.

In its submission to a Senate inquiry into the legislation, Amnesty outlined concerns over the lack of detail including what constituted “work” for visa holders. Amnesty also said: “It is not clear to what extent holders of a Shev will be able to move within Australia. It is equally unclear at this stage whether any state, territory or local government area will nominate as a ‘designated region’.”

There are about 32,000 asylum seekers awaiting final assessment in Australia, more than 8,000 of them in NSW.

Pamela Curr, campaign coordinator for the asylum seeker resources centre, said the Shev scheme would create extra processing work unnecessarily.

She said a large numbers of asylum seekers on bridging visas were already working in regional areas, in places like abattoirs and factories.

“Under the current system there’s nothing to stop people going out in the regions and working,” Curr told Guardian Australia. “The federal government has done nothing to assist them in doing it.”

“Instead of inventing these new fancy visas, why don’t they process and properly establish the status of those who have been sitting in the community in limbo?”

She said the burden of reevaluating refugees in the Shev process would only further slow down the processing of asylum seekers on bridging visas – many of whom have been waiting for years.

“They can’t handle the [32,000] they’ve got on their books now, which includes about 5,000 from as far back as 2009.”

Last week asylum seekers on bridging visas began receiving offers to apply for TPVs, after the federal government lifted its stay on on processing asylum claims.

Claims will be assessed using a controversial fast-track processing system.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/may/31/nsw-signs-up-to-place-refugees-in-regional-areas-on-five-year-visas

Leave a comment

Filed under Asylum Policy

South-East Asian migrant crisis: Claims up to 200 dead with 14 people, including seven children, dead before boat turned around by navies

May 17, 2015 | ABC News

Rohingyas at Langsa, Aceh, showing their UNHCR refugee cards

PHOTO: Rohingyas including Muhammad Rafique (right) at Langsa, Aceh, show their UNHCR refugee cards.(ABC News: George Roberts)

Migrants and refugees who spent months at sea and found help in Indonesia’s Aceh province claim up to 200 people died on the journey with 14 people, including seven children, dying before the boat was turned around by both the Indonesian and Malaysian navies.

The 677 survivors were rescued by Indonesian fishermen and brought ashore last Thursday.

It has since emerged that Rohingyas and ethnic Bengalis from Bangladesh were involved in onboard violence that left seven people dead, as food and water supplies ran out.

The migrants claimed many passengers died by drowning either when they fell overboard or when the boat began to take on water.

It is impossible to verify the accuracy of some of the claims due to the language barriers.

There are differing accounts of the onboard violence with accusations being made by ethnic groups who admit to the clashes but blame each other for starting them.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

A 21-year-old Rohingya man, Muhammad Rafique, who already has UN Refugee Status, said the Bengalis were the aggressors.

“Bengali … they said, you are Rohingya, they kill us, they kill us by the knife, by the hammer,” he said.

But Bengali Mohammad Abdur Rahim, 23, said it was the Rohingyas who started it.

“Myanmar people do not give us any food, any water, they are torturing [us] every day,” he said.

Boat turned away from Indonesian, Malaysian waters

The clashes seem to have occurred after the asylum seekers left the waters off Thailand and were then abandoned by the people smugglers and the ship’s captain.

According to the passengers:

  • Three to four boats left Bangladesh and Myanmar up to two months ago
  • Off the coast of Thailand, smugglers transferred them all to a larger boat
  • At least some of the smugglers, and the captain, abandoned ship
  • The passengers, without training or guidance, attempted to reach Malaysia
  • As food and water ran out, violent clashes broke out, leaving seven dead
  • Another seven children reportedly died during the voyage
  • Last week they reached Indonesian waters
  • The Indonesian Navy gave them some supplies but turned them towards Malaysia
  • The Malaysian Navy also gave them supplies and turned them away
  • Some claim 100-200 people drowned in the entire ordeal, but this can not be verified
  • Indonesian fishermen rescued 677 people from the boat on Thursday

From what those on board who can speak English say, three to four boats left from Bangladesh and Myanmar weeks ago.

Off the Thai coast, the smugglers then transferred them all to one bigger boat, and later abandoned them.

Last week they reached Indonesian waters but were rejected by the Indonesian navy.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry spokesman, Arrmanatha Nasir, conceded the navy had contact with a boat on Tuesday but said the people wanted to get to Malaysia so Indonesia gave them fuel, food and water.

Indonesia’s military spokesman Fuad Basya told the ABC the navy escorted them out of Indonesian waters.

Mr Abdur Rahim said the Indonesian navy took them to Malaysian waters.

Major General Basya told the ABC: “It’s the military’s responsibility to protect the country’s territory”.

He added the navy would keep turning asylum seeker boats away unless directed otherwise.

Once the boat reached Malaysian waters, the passengers met a similar response.

The navy again provided supplies but refused entry to Malaysian waters.

The boat, adrift at sea with no port of destination, began taking on water.

It was Acehnese fishermen who rescued the 677 Rohingya asylum seekers and Bangladeshis and brought them to Langsa.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he supported regional countries taking action to stop people smuggling boats by turning them around and stood by the Australian Government doing the same.

“I don’t apologise in any way for the action that Australia has taken to preserve safety at sea by turning boats around where necessary and if other countries choose to do that, frankly, that is almost certainly absolutely necessary.”

Rescued asylum seeker receives medical treatment in Aceh

PHOTO: Rescued migrants receive medical treatment upon their arrival in the fishing town of Kuala Langsa in Aceh province.(AFP: Chaideer Mahyuddin)

‘They were on the sea for four months, no food, no bedding’

Many of those on board were dehydrated and malnourished. A number are still taking fluids through intravenous drips.

Dr Iqbal Foriza, who is co-ordinating medical provision at the makeshift refugee camp, said 25 people were admitted to hospital with their bodies having gone into shock from the ordeal.

“The worst is heavy shock. They were on the sea for four months, no food, no clean food, no bedding, that made the people dehydrated, and caused trauma,” Dr Iqbal said.

On a military camp bed last night, a Bangladeshi woman fanned her three-year-old daughter to keep away mosquitoes, which can be deadly in Indonesia.

The tiny girl was still hooked up to a drip, but Dr Foriza said she was being monitored every three hours.

The ordeal had some people rethinking their plans to get to Malaysia.

“We [want to] go back to Bangladesh immediately. Please help,” Mr Abdur Rahim said.

Muhammad Rafique, a Rohingya, still wanted to get to Australia via Malaysia, with the help of people smugglers.

“First time I will go Malaysia, I will [collect] some money, pay the broker. After I go to Australia to study,” he said.

When the ABC asked him if he knew Australia did not accept people who came by boat he did not understand.

Young rescued Rohingya asylum seeker in the dome tent

PHOTO: Many of those on board were dehydrated and malnourished and a number are still taking fluids through intravenous drips. (ABC News: George Roberts)

Australia urged to help ease crisis by taking more refugees

Australia’s former ambassador to Thailand and Indonesia John McCarthy said Australia could not just be a witness to the crisis and needed to significantly increase its refugee intake.

“It is a major gesture,” he said.

“We are a country that can afford to take refugees and it has to be bipartisan. If this is not bipartisan we’re not going to get it up.

“The only prospect I can see of Australia playing a constructive role is by saying that we will actually increase our intake of refugees above the 12,000-odd we take currently to a much larger number.”

Malaysia said its foreign minister would meet with his Indonesian and Thai counterparts to discuss the crisis.

Foreign minister Anifah Aman was to meet Indonesia’s Retno Marsudi in the Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu on Monday, a government official said.

That would be followed by separate talks between Mr Anifah and Thai foreign minister Tanasak Patimapragorn later in the week, “most probably on Wednesday”.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-17/migrant-refugee-crisis-south-east-asia-in-numbers/6476160

Leave a comment

Filed under Asylum Seekers in Indonesia, Boat Intercepted, Boat Tragedy

Teenage refugees take to the stage to share stories of plight, change audience perceptions in Sydney

May 10, 2015 | ABC News

Young refugees are sharing their stories of war-torn Iraq and Syria, through theatre performances in the hope it will ease the trauma of their ordeal as well as educate the Sydney community.

The Tree of Life performance from Treehouse Theatre group at the Casula Powerhouse has designed a production to help the teenagers share their experiences.

Among the group of young refugees is Simon Oshana, who fled to Lebanon from Syria in 2012, before being granted refugee status in Australia.

Simon, 16, said he was 13-years-old and his life changed forever while playing soccer with his friends in the village of Tel Nasri in north-eastern Syria.

I thought ‘it’s easy, they just come here by boat, get a visa’ but no – it’s totally different.

Aisha Hawli, student from the Australian International Academy

He said rockets fired by rebel forces, ravaged the village.

“I saw the planes and rockets and everything,” he said. “They were so close to me.”

The 13-year-old ran for cover and found his cousin Nino had been killed in the attack.

“They brought him to the hospital and he was dead,” Simon said.

“I saw him in front of me lying down with all his body injured and blood all over his body.

“I’m still living that nightmare.”

‘1000-year-old village bombed into oblivion’

Last month, Simon learned that the ancient Assyrian town where he grew up, was destroyed by the Islamic State militants.

“My 1000-year-old village was bombed into nothing, bombed into oblivion,” he said in the performance.

Two weeks ago, the 16-year-old said he found out on Facebook that his best friend was killed while fighting with Kurdish Peshmerga and Assyrian forces against IS.

“I didn’t believe it, I straight away messaged his brother and he said ‘it’s true’,” he said.

“It was a shock to me to see my best friend, who sat next to me in the school for many years, to see his picture on Facebook, dead.”

Simon said he used the theatre production to share experiences that he previously struggled to express.

“At the beginning, I didn’t tell anyone my story… I wasn’t that brave to tell my story because I’d cry straight away,” he said.

“Now I can control my story and tell it easily to the people.”

Iraqi sisters Athmar, 14, and Asrar Habeb, 16, fled Iraq with their family in 2013 after their cousin was kidnapped.

But they said the Tree of Life theatre production has helped with getting through their trauma.

“I feel good [that] the things that are in my heart, [go] out to people,” Athmar said.

“They know my stories.”

Audience perception of refugees’ plight changed

Audience member Aisha Hawli who is a student at the Australian International Academy said the performance changed her attitude towards refugees.

“It really showed you that refugees go through a lot more than us having been born in Australia and having a better life,” she said.

“I thought ‘it’s easy, they just come here by boat, get a visa’ but no – it’s totally different.”

Other school students praised the performers for their bravery in sharing their stories.

“If that were to be me in those situations, I don’t think I’d be courageous as they were,” Gabriella Prude from Miller Technology High School said.

“I can’t even imagine going through the things they’ve gone through.”

Marcello Ralph from the same school said “it was really emotional” and “it’s just a really eye-opening experience for everyone in this theatre”.

Dr Ken Edge, principal of Miller Technology High School, thanked the performers publicly at the end of the performance.

“Your stories are amazing, they challenge our beliefs,” he said.

Performance helps heal trauma

Ruth Hartcher-O’Brien, artistic director of Treehouse Theatre, said it was difficult for the performers to open up as their experiences are raw and ongoing.

“It’s bad enough telling stories of trauma that have happened previously,” she said.

“Horrible, sad deaths, kidnappings, bombings and you leave it and you come to a new life in Australia.

“But these stories where they’re in Australia and they’re still experiencing [trauma] and their families are still experiencing deaths, kidnappings and the sweep of [the Islamic State].”

Ms Hartcher-O’Brien said the drama program was designed to help the teenagers control their emotions through theatre.

The reaction they get from the audience just feeds their soul.

Catherine Maguire-Donvito, co-directer and counsellor

“They’ve got some control, but the actual telling of it is heartbreaking,” she said.

“They sob and sob in those first sessions when we’re gathering their stories.

“They still tell their stories through their tears to all these audience members and they’re actually crying.”

Co-director and school counsellor Catherine Maguire-Donvito said the teenagers learn to juggle mixed emotions.

“It’s really important for the kids to understand you can be happy and sad at the same time,” she said.

“You don’t have to be scared of the powerful and negative feelings.”

She said the performers’ involvement allowed them to feel a sense of significant accomplishment.

“The reaction they get from the audience just feeds their soul,” Ms Maguire-Donvito said.

“It is just a joyful experience for them and that’s what it’s all about.”

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-10/refugees-take-to-the-stage-to-share-stories/6456402

Leave a comment

Filed under Life after detention, Talented Asylum Seekers