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ASRC at risk of closure

13 February 2023 at 5:03 pm
Danielle Kutchel
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre launches emergency appeal, saying it only has enough savings left to cover six weeks of operation.

Danielle Kutchel | 13 February 2023 at 5:03 pm


ASRC at risk of closure
13 February 2023 at 5:03 pm

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre launches emergency appeal, saying it only has enough savings left to cover six weeks of operation.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) could close in a matter of weeks as the rising cost of living contributes to a devastating drop in donations to the organisation.

In a statement, the organisation said it only has enough savings for six weeks despite remaining within its operational budget.

The ASRC pointed to a reduction in donations, the impact of the cost of living crisis and “continued independence from federal government funding” as reasons for the dramatic situation.

Public donations are down by 45 per cent since July 2022, according to the ASRC.

It has now launched an emergency appeal for funding to stay open.

“For 21 years we have been standing with people seeking asylum and exposing the cruelty of our nation’s inhumane refugee policies,” said Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO and founder of the ASRC.

“Despite a number of interventions, such as reducing our workforce by 10 per cent in August last year, our savings are running out and we have just six weeks to save the ASRC from stopping to deliver critical services.”

He called on the community to donate, adding “every bit absolutely counts”.

See more: The research is in: Australians support refugees

“We still have work to do. There are thousands and thousands of people seeking asylum who have been denied their basic rights by governments that seek to dehumanise and harm. The compassion, care and humanity shown by the community are often a much-needed last resort for people resisting such cruelty. Please help us keep our doors open.”

See more: A lifelong advocate for refugees

Refugees get path to permanency

As the ASRC navigates the crisis, thousands of refugees stuck on temporary protection visas (TPVs) and safe haven enterprise visas (SHEVs) have received a lifeline from the government.

In line with its election commitment, the federal government will allow around 19,000 refugees who hold or are eligible to hold TPVs or SHEVs to apply for Resolution of Status Visas, which will provide them with the same entitlements as other permanent residents, including social security payments, higher education loans, access to the NDIS, and the ability to apply for family reunification, and eventually Australian citizenship.

It’s expected the transition will take around 12 months.

The change was welcomed by many of the major advocacy organisations working in the space, including the ASRC, Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), and Democracy in Colour.

Problems remain in visa system

However there are calls from these organisations for the government to ensure the process of transition does not prolong the wait for refugees.

The advocacy organisations are also concerned that the government’s move does not provide a fair outcome for all refugees.

Neha Madhok, national director at Democracy in Colour, noted that despite the changes, many refugees will continue to live in limbo, and said the government needed to apply consistency to its refugee policy.

“What we find really problematic and concerning is that just last week, Labor decided to send 100 people back to offshore detention. This is at direct odds with the idea that they support people seeking safety and asylum. The federal government must have consistently humane policies that afford people on temporary visas dignity and stability.”

Similarly, the ASRC said the focus must remain on providing stability and solutions for all those refugees who have been subjected to the government’s fast-track visa system.

“The announcement, whilst an extraordinary and long-overdue win and a start toward restoring justice for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia, has not provided adequate solutions for all 31,000 people subjected to the fast-track system,” the ASRC said in a statement.

“The Albanese Government’s implementation of this announcement will be critical. It needs to be efficient, fair, and humane, and resolve the status of all 31,000 people as soon as possible.”

JRS is concerned about the continued separation of refugee families. The organisation called on the government “to consider all possible avenues to hasten the reunification of families of TPV/SHEV visa holders who will become permanent under the new policy but remain ineligible to sponsor their families through the humanitarian stream”. 

“Now that the nightmare of temporary protection is coming to an end, we celebrate with all who are experiencing joy with this major announcement, and we commend the Government for taking these decisive steps,” said Tamara Domicelj, JRS Australia country director. 

“We also know that many, who have suffered for far too long, will be craving greater certainty regarding when they may be reunited with their families who remain in danger. And that others in the community who may have hoped to have been included in this announcement, may be experiencing significant distress today.”

JRS also welcomed the government’s abolition of Ministerial Direction 80, which occurred last week. The Direction 80 mechanism designated visa applications for family members sponsored by refugees who held arrived in Australia by boat and held permanent protection visas as “lowest processing priority”, thereby preventing family reunification.

And the federal government recently renewed its agreement with Nauru to designate the island country as Australia’s regional processing centre for another 10 years.

See more: 10-year anniversary of offshore detention places spotlight on Australia’s treatment of refugees

JRS also noted that the government’s announcement “does not include about 12,000 people whose asylum applications were denied or have not been resolved under the fast-track system”.

“The lack of communication about what the Government is doing to resolve their status will likely compound existing anguish and trauma that they have experienced,” it said.

RCOA shared JRS’ concerns about those who have been rejected through the fast-track process.

“While we celebrate the end of this policy, we are concerned that the announcement today does not provide hope and a clear pathway for those who have been rejected through the unfair ‘fast track process’. For years, Labor MPs and Senators have acknowledged the unfairness of the fast track process, yet this announcement leaves people only with the option of seeking ministerial intervention to prevent forced return to danger,” RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said. 

“This omission will inevitably increase pressure on the ministerial intervention process as many people previously rejected are from countries where the risk of persecution has become more acute in recent years, particularly Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iran.

“The Refugee Council and our member organisations around Australia look forward to working with the Federal Government to ensure that the transition to permanent visas is as smooth as possible and that community concerns about separated families and people still at risk are addressed.”

Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting. Reach her on or on Twitter @D_Kutchel.

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