To mark World Refugee Day on 20 June, members of the Catholic community and other groups gathered in a circle of silence facilitated by the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) at the State Library Victoria.
With messages of solidarity, hope and protest, we prayed and stood publicly for the acceptance and fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
The event started with a speech of Sr Brigid Arthur, coordinator of the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project.
‘We stand in a circle of solidarity with people who have come to us in Australia asking to be protected’, she said. ‘We pledge our solidarity with those who came to us as strangers, and we did not welcome them.
‘To be an asylum seeker is like a destiny – it’s very hard not knowing where you’re going. We need to give people seeking asylum some ways to live with dignity while they are waiting for their application to be processed, and there are many ways in which we can do this.
‘The government is actually taking away the money that they had and not giving them work rights in many cases. The general public can help, for instance with accommodation, food, money and all those sorts of practical things.’
Following the conclusion of the speech, attendees formed a circle and reflected or prayed quietly for 10 minutes on the situation faced by many refugees and people who are seeking asylum.
Several students from various Catholic schools across Melbourne attended the event with their own messages to the government:
‘I am here because my school has a really good social justice system, and we have been talking a lot about the horror that refugees go through. We are all very sympathetic to the cause, and we want some change.’ — Chloe
‘We are here today because we believe that it’s important to be involved with issues that we feel passionate about. We want to emphasise equality, solidarity and acceptance. If we unify, we can empower our cause. We will hopefully inspire all of us to get involved and be aware of these issues.’ — Kelfy
‘I am here because I am ashamed to be an Australian. The way we treat people is unacceptable. I feel very sad about what we are doing.’ — Trisha
CAPSA fighting the good fight
CAPSA continues to advocate for a more fair process for people seeking asylum in Australia. In particular, it advocates that:
- Australia should process people seeking asylum while they live in the community, in Australia.
- Claims for asylum need to be assessed promptly, transparently and with respect for human dignity.
- There must be access to avenues for fair appeal.
- There should be adequate support for people while they wait for their application to be processed to live a dignified life in the community.
By Marina Ágh
To join CAPSA, visit www.capsa.org.au