Jesuit Social Services and the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum are raising awareness of the trauma that long-term separation from family can cause for refugees and asylum-seekers.
The Catholic organisations have collaborated with the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) to raise public awareness of this issue through the #fairgoforfamilies campaign, which highlights the psychological and social impacts that family separation can have on refugees and asylum-seekers.
Representatives from the organisations travelled to Canberra earlier this month to raise this issue with federal MP's from across the political spectrum, advocating for an increase in opportunities for family reunion and for the removal of processing barriers that disadvantage refugees.
Rashid and Sahar (not their real names), both refugees from Afghanistan, travelled with the group and spoke powerfully of the challenges faced by families separated across borders and of the positive impact of reunification once it takes place.
The pain of family separation has been a key concern for refugee communities in Australia. The tragedy of forcible displacement often means that refugee families are split across borders in their efforts to reach safety.
In Australia, there are barriers that prevent family reunion. They include the limitations on the number of places available for refugee family members under the Australian humanitarian program, as well as government directives that mean visa applications for those sponsored by someone who arrived by boat are given the lowest priority. As a result, family reunion is almost impossible for these refugees.
The group met with key immigration spokespersons, including the Labor Party, the Nick Xenophon Team and the Greens, as well as officials from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The campaign calls for the government to improve processes for refugees and asylum-seekers who wish to be reunited with their families. It asks the government to allocate at least 5000 visas under the family stream of the migration program for refugee and humanitarian entrants, reduce processing times, increase funding to support the process and remove restrictions on family reunion for people arriving by boat.
CAPSA and Jesuit Social Services are encouraging Australians to make their views known to their local MPs on the #fairgoforfamilies campaign. Details: https://capsa.org.au/fairgo/
#fairgoforfamilies campaign (Refugee Council of Australia)