World day of migrants and refugees

On the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the National Council of the St Vincent de Paul Society celebrates the significant contribution of migrants and refugees to the Australian community. Further, the Society has called on the Australian Government to step up efforts to ease the suffering of many refugees.

Speaking about current regulations that apply to refugees, especially in the wake of the Afghanistan Crisis, St Vincent de Paul Society National President, Claire Victory, believes the current system has starkly exposed the true brutality of indefinite temporary visas.

“His Holiness, Pope Francis, said ‘we are all in the same boat and called to work together, so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer ‘others’, but only a single ‘we’, encompassing all of humanity’”, Ms Victory said.

“The security situation in Afghanistan demands that we must give permanent protection to the 4,300 Afghans already here on temporary visas; and we must give at least 20,000 additional places to Afghan refugees, including family members of all Afghans already here.

“Afghans still on temporary visas after 10 yearsremain in limbo or, more accurately, purgatory, with no permanent home and no chance to re-unite with their family.

“Beyond the Afghan crisis, the National Council continues to call for policy changes that will allow for a more compassionate welcome for asylum seekers and new migrants, including the rejection of changes to legislation designed to force new migrants to wait for four years to access critical social services payments.

“Supporting people, as they fight an intrinsically unfair process, with many left destitute because they are unable to access government benefits, has been one of the toughest challenges for the St Vincent de Paul Society and other refugee support organisations over the last five years.

“Over 20,000 refugees are still on temporary visas, unable to bring their families here and another 10,000 people are still struggling through a refugee application process, condemned as unfair by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“The problems facing refugees on temporary visas for nearly a decade have recently become more acute. As their visas expire, they must struggle through the same, unfair application process a second time, compounding their insecurity and stress,” Ms Victory said.

The St Vincent de Paul National Council continues its advocacy through a number of campaigns, including Christians United for Afghanistan – an unprecedented coalition of Christian organisations including Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, and the Uniting Church.

The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office has produced a resource kit to help parishes and other church communities celebrate World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

The Chair of the Vincentian Refugee Network, Mr Tim McKenna, recently addressed the Archdiocese of Canberra Goulburn. Please use this link to access a copy of his speech.

MEDIA NOTES: The St Vincent de Paul Society was founded in Paris, France in 1833 by a 20-year old Italian student, Frederic Ozanam. Today, the Society operates in 153 countries and has over 800,000 members. Australia has over 60,000 members, dedicated to assisting people in need and combating social injustice. The Society started in Tasmania in 1899 when founders established a Conference in Launceston. From humble beginnings, the Society has grown to 25 Conferences within three Regional Councils across Tasmania. Each Conference undertake a variety of good works, the most recognised being the traditional Vincentian home visits and the annual CEO Sleep-out to draw attention to homelessness.

Media contact, Mark Wells: +61 414 015 966 (24-hours)
© St Vincent de Paul Society and MWPA.

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