When we’re born, we don’t choose the family we’re born into, the country in which we live or the circumstances we may face. We don’t, as children, choose the religious faith our family may practice, or the culture they identify with. As children, we certainly don’t choose to live in situations marked by conflict, persecution or violence. When families are forced to flee their homeland due to a well-founded fear of persecution, this is not a choice, it is an act of survival. In order to survive, many people fleeing persecution will seek safety for their family regardless of the immense barriers that may lie ahead.
One of the greatest challenges that many will face in coming to Australia is the harsh and punitive nature of our current immigration system. This can range from indefinite and arbitrary imprisonment inside immigration detention through to a life stuck in limbo on temporary protection, with limited support services and onerous visa-reapplications.
The barriers faced by people seeking asylum and refugees seem insurmountable at times. It has led Jesuit Social Services to undertake policy and advocacy work that seeks to address systemic injustices with the hope that newly arrived people will feel welcomed and supported when they come to Australia.
One of the avenues through which Jesuit Social Services does this work is via the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA). Jesuit Social Services initiated this Alliance in 2013 and now co-convenes it with Jesuit Refugee Service Australia (JRS Australia). CAPSA is supported by a National Advisory Group, with representatives from peak Catholic bodies and organisations in Australia across a range of sectors – health, education, social services and pastoral.
Through engagement with the broader Catholic community, CAPSA advocates for an Australia that provides safety and welcome to people seeking asylum. Recently, CAPSA provided a submission to the Federal Government’s Inquiry into the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2021, calling for the immediate release of those indefinitely detained.
Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021 a key advocacy priority for CAPSA has been the Action for Afghanistan campaign. Through numerous channels of engagement and sector collaboration, CAPSA has sent many letters to Members of Parliament (MPs), taken part in community meetings with MPs, received hundreds of signatures of support from Catholics around Australia, and held an action-based webinar that reached over 200 people. Most recently, CAPSA was represented at a delegation of faith, veteran and diaspora leaders who met with Federal Members of Parliament to urge further action for Afghanistan. Throughout this campaign, CAPSA has worked in close collaboration with the Afghanistan diaspora community in Australia, particularly through our co-conveners JRS Australia.
Throughout this time, CAPSA has engaged Catholics in Australia to advocate for the Federal Government to take immediate #ActionforAfghanistan. We continue to advocate for an additional intake of 20,000 humanitarian places for refugees fleeing Afghanistan, permanent protection for those from Afghanistan living in Australia on temporary visas, and family reunification for those in Australia with family fleeing Afghanistan. As the crisis in Afghanistan continues, so too does CAPSA’s advocacy.
Our policy and advocacy work also seeks to improve social connectedness, build capacity and foster a sense of belonging for newly arrived people, their families and communities in Australia. In a recent contribution to the Federal Pre-Budget 2022-23 consultation, Jesuit Socials Services called for adequate and sustained funding of settlement supports, such as interpreter services and financial assistance. Central to the way we work is our ongoing call for those with lived experience to have a voice in shaping these services to ensure they meet their specific needs.
By advocating for a more humane immigration system, along with adequate settlement supports, we aim to ensure people seeking asylum and refugees can live their lives to the fullest.
To find out more about CAPSA and to take action, visit www.capsa.org.au.