As refugee advocates prepare for this year’s Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the fate of those left behind on Manus and Nauru.
According to Guardian Australia, more than 150 refugees from Australia’s two offshore immigration centres have been resettled in the US. Approximately 2000 refugees remain marooned on Manus Island and Nauru.
UNHCR regional protection officer Rico Salcedo reported a “pervasive and worsening sense of despair” among refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.
The Australian government said it no longer bears any responsibility for the asylum seekers. The Department of Home Affairs claims the processing of refugee claims are now “matters for the governments of PNG and Nauru”.
On Palm Sunday, refugee supporters will gather at the State Library of Victoria to remind the Australian government that they have a legal and moral obligation to protect the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.
This year’s route will start at the State Library of Victoria before doing a circuit around the Melbourne CBD.
Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Adam will speak live from Manus Island and Taqi Azra will share his experiences as a Hazara refugee. Corinne Grant will MC the event.
More than 100 religious and human rights organisation, including the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania, have endorsed the walk.
During the last five years, nine refugees and asylum seekers have died in Australia’s offshore detention centres. Many more have developed serious mental illnesses.
Refugee supporters will also call for greater protection for the 30,000 refugees living on bridging visas in the Australian community.
Many families remain separated by Australia’s harsh refugee system, and most have almost no hope of being reunited with their loved ones.
Approximately 12,000 people are at risk of losing lifesaving services due to government changes. The Turnbull government recently ended a contract with Australian Red Cross, a major national provider of Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS).
SRSS is a regular payment for people waiting for a decision about their immigration status. While not enough to make ends meet, SSRS payments enable people to pay rent and access specialist medical care including torture and trauma counselling.
Refugee welfare agencies are concerned that cuts to SSRS would force people on bridging visas into homelessness.
Join the Palm Sunday Walk at the State Library of Victoria on 25 March at 2pm.