Activists and refugees leading the movement for their rights came together over September 16–18 at the first Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) national conference in four years.
More than 150 people from towns and regions throughout eastern Australia attended what was probably the first grassroots refugee rights conference since the pandemic.
A common view that the Anthony Albanese government is not meeting the movement’s fundamental aims had emerged from discussions beforehand, and the conference only confirmed it.
Refugee-led organisations, such as Cisarua Learning and Women for Change, helped identify and work out what needs to be done to change that.
Alongside RAR’s call for another 20,000 emergency visas for refugees from Afghanistan, it also supported: ending offshore detention; ending mandatory detention — which averages more than two years — and resolve the issue of statelessness that means a number of refugees are detained for a decade or more.
RAR also supports lifting the ban on refugees, who arrived in Indonesia after July 1, 2014, applying for visas under the humanitarian program. It wants all refugees on temporary visas to be granted permanent visas without delay and all for those seeking asylum have access to work and study rights, and to Medicare.
A call for a Royal Commission into immigration detention, which would have powers to investigate the contracts for private companies to run the camps and to protect the refugees who want to speak out, also received broad support.
[Jonathan Strauss is the President of Rural Australians for Refugees.]