Overwhelming support for our work during Covid-19

We have previously posted about the difficulties faced by refugees and asylum seekers through the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then there have been great efforts by Circles to assist the refugee community. A new Circle was set up which distributed food on a weekly basis for up to 60 family units. Another new Circle was established to seek employment for refugees who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic. COFA was faced with many requests for assistance to pay the rent for refugee families who had lost their income and so another Circle grew to pay rent. Other Circles kept on with their contact, supporting the refugees they knew.

It has all meant a huge demand on the resources of the Circles. As COFA has found in the past, when we are faced with a crisis, our donors and supporters have stepped up and provided us with all the resources we have needed. It is a remarkable situation for COFA to be in, to realise once again that we are blessed with very many generous people who want to support us in this critical work. Most touching for the Treasurer was to see the number of $750 donations which came into our bank account when those sums were given by the Federal Government to Pensioners and Social Security beneficiaries. These people on low incomes themselves indicated that they believed that refugees needed the government support more than they did.

We had very many churches who made large donations to COFA including one which has donated almost $20,000, another nearly $13,000. We have had five Trusts who have made grants of $32,000 between them and a Pharmacy donated $10,000. There have been so many donations from individuals of $1,000 and more, not to mention the hosts of donors who contribute regularly on say a weekly basis. It is quite overwhelming to be conscious of such generosity. COFA also received a grant of $10,000 from the State Government and more than $53,000 from the Federal Government through the auspices of the Australian Red Cross for food.

What it has also shown to us is that our model of being a community based organisation run entirely by volunteers with minimal administrative costs is attractive to individual donors, philanthropic organisations and even government agencies. In the eight years since COFA was formed, we have grown from a $30,000 per year small charity to a half million dollar mid-sized Australian charity.

There as many people in our Circles who have done so much to assist refugees and asylum seekers, giving of their time and energy so selflessly and we are so grateful to them. But they could only do this essential work with the encouragement and financial resources from all our donors and supporters. For all that effort and generosity, we are truly most humble and thankful to you all. You are amazing people, showing such concern for these people who have suffered so much in their past and presently experiencing such need. We thank you on their behalf and deep from our own hearts.

Keep families together: Get Up Petition

Circle of Friends Australia has been supporting Mehreen since she was moved to Adelaide from Nauru to give birth to her daughter. The same daughter recently turned 3 years old and has still never met her father outside of the Kilburn detention facility where he is being held.  A recent report from the Human Rights Law Centre titledTogether in Safety reveals that hundreds of women like Mehreen have been kept separated from their families while paperwork for release of people from detention centres were ignored for two years by previous Minister for Home Affairs. Get Up has put together a petition to new Minister of  Home Affairs Karen Andrews to request families be reunited now. You can read more about this and sign petition here.

Do you work with refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants who have minimal support options available to them? Baptist Care SA can help. They provide FREE emergency relief assistance to vulnerable South Australians and help meet their most urgent needs through:

  • Food hampers
  • Community Food Hub vouchers
  • PBS prescriptions
  • Bus tickets.

Concession card holders including Students, Seniors, new Australians (ImmiCard) and Centrelink clients are all welcome.

Please call or visit the WestCare Centre to make an appointment.
Contact: T 08 8118 5200
Location: 11-19 Millers Court, Adelaide
Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 12 pm

Petition Concerning Long Delays in Processing Family Visa Applications

Monica O’Wheel, Chair of Circle of Friends Australia Inc. (COFA), and other members of the COFA Management Committee, have received an invitation to sign an important petition to the Commonwealth House of Representatives concerning the administrative mistreatment of permanent residents who are former asylum seekers, and their families.

Asylum seekers who have been granted permanent residence visas can sponsor spouse and dependent children to join them in Australia on a family visa. But a Ministerial Direction under the Migration Act 1958 states that the order of processing of such applications puts applications from former asylum seekers last, behind all other permanent residents and citizens. The result is that family members who are in foreign countries and will already have suffered separation for years, must therefore wait a further 8 years or more for an outcome.

So a child who has been separated from one or both parents would suffer separation during the crucial growing up years when parental guidance is so vital. Such children, on reaching Australia, will often never have seen one or both parents, or will not recognise them.

As these are family members of asylum seekers who gained refugee status, they will in many cases be living in conditions that are a risk to their lives and/or health.

It is not only those in limbo overseas that suffer. The parent(s) in Australia do also. Such separations are a major cause of the high incidence of mental illnesses suffered by asylum seekers, including those who have gained permanent residence or citizenship here.

Another effect of the directive is that children separated during high school or late primary school years will reach adulthood before the application is processed and decided, whereupon they are no longer eligible for a family visa, and will thus be separated for life.

One or more federal MPs are sponsoring a Petition asking that such visa applications sponsored by permanent residents (formerly asylum seekers) be processed in the same order of priority as applications sponsored by other permanent residents or citizens of Australia.

Please visit and sign the petition here.

(The petition is not particularly well written but it does give a good overview of the problem, and we are assured that the sponsoring MPs will be well briefed, and thus able to make a good case to the House.)