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27 August 2019

LGBT+ Asylum Seekers and Refugees – Why they can’t go home

Across the world lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are criminalised for who they are and who they love. Although the last few years have seen a significant and meaningful shift towards recognising the formal rights of LGBT+ people, sadly for many countries there has been a sharp regression. For these countries, it seems when sexual orientation or gender identity is perceived as different to the cultural norms, people face systematic violence including rape, physical attack, torture, and murder.

There are now 78 jurisdictions around the world that still criminalise private, consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex. Almost half of these are Commonwealth countries and 13 jurisdictions have the death penalty on the books for consensual same-sex sexual activity. At least 8 of these implement the death penalty, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Brunei and Sudan. Parts of Nigeria and Somalia also apply the death penalty for LGBT+ people.

This diagram shows in red the countries where homosexuality is still outlawed around the world.

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Laws that criminalise same-sex intimacy do more than outlaw certain sexual acts. These laws criminalise LGBT+ identities and evidently the full force of the state is used against these communities. This leaves them vulnerable to violence, abuse and harassment from state and non-state actors alike.
At any point in time, it is estimated that 175,000 LGBT+ people will be in peril and either seriously harmed or threatened with harm. They are completely shut out from employment, healthcare and other socio-economic rights as they are not deemed worthy to be part of society.

This is why many are forced to leave their home countries and seek asylum elsewhere in the world. Most of the LGBT+ individuals who seek protection based explicitly on their sexual orientation or gender identity do so in countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, and Australia. These nations are seen as having relatively developed LGBT+ communities with recognised legal rights and economies that permit the survival of socially marginalised communities.

In coming to a country like Australia, LGBT+ people seeking asylum and refugee status can live their lives with freedom, dignity and without the fear of imprisonment or death. A freedom those of us who are lucky enough to be born in these countries take for granted.

Organisations such as RASSA are pivotal in providing asylum seekers and refugees with support, free legal advice and representation. With your continued support we can continue to help LGBT+ asylum seekers in gaining their residency here in Australia and enable them to put their former lives behind them, become part of our culture and enrich the fabric of our society.

How RASSA navigates a complex funding environment

RASSA is one of a dwindling number of community legal centres operating in South Australia, and the only one that offers free migration advice to people seeking asylum. The State Budget was almost silent on funding for community legal centres, despite research showing that for every dollar invested into community legal centres, they return a benefit to society that is 18 times that cost.

The people we assist are particularly vulnerable because federal funding for legal assistance to this group (often referred to as the Legacy Caseload) has been abolished. Nearly 2000 Legacy Caseload applicants are resident in South Australia, and have been living in the community on bridging visas and temporary protection visas since 2012-13. Due to the temporary nature of their visas, each of these people will need to apply for visas again in the future. The visa application process is complex, and skilled advice is essential.

In the past, our project has been supported by grants from Community Benefit SA, the Law Foundation of South Australia and the Broadley Trust. We were honoured to receive a one-off sum of $48,585 from Minister Zoe Bettison in early 2018, but no further funding has been secured.

Before the release of the State Budget, RASSA sought funding from the Premier and Attorney-General to continue providing free migration advice and assistance service for people seeking asylum under the ‘fast track’ process in South Australia. Unfortunately, the response from the Attorney-General stated that the South Australian Government is not in a position to provide funding to RASSA.

Despite the overwhelming support we received at our annual Refugee Week fundraising dinner, the $14,500 raised is not sufficient to sustain the same level of operations in 2020. RASSA is now in a position of having to re-assess its service delivery and its direction.

With this is mind, RASSA’s board met in early August for an extensive Planning Day, led by mediation expert Ippei Okazaki. On behalf of all board members, I wish to thank Ippei for generously offering his time and expertise to help RASSA. This planning Day reinforced the critical need for free migration services in South Australia – we are exploring all opportunities to continue giving Asylum Seekers and Refugees fair access to justice in the future.

27 May 2019

Join us for RASSA’s 2019 Refugee Week fundraising dinner

at Chicco Palms on Monday 17 June at 7pm

We promise a night of delicious food, good hearted, like-minded people and great auctions prizes. Invite your friends and book a table today!

Bookings at https://www.trybooking.com/BCRTI

Refugee Week Dinner - FB Post

6 May 2019

May 2019 eNews – What’s New? Two distinguished guests and an impending election

This month, our volunteer board is finalising the details of our Annual Refugee Week Dinner on 17 June and we can’t wait to send you an invite. Coming soon!
In the meantime, two distinguished guests feature in this newsletter. Professor Alexander Reilly, Director of the Public Law and Policy Research Unit at the Adelaide Law School talks about how your vote can impact refugee issues this election. We also hear from our very own Migration agent, Edel Arvin Chang and his mission for RASSA.

The 2019 Election and Humanitarian Protection
by Professor Alexander Reilly

Although refugee policy has not featured strongly in the election campaign, there are important differences between the major parties in this policy space.
There has always been a clear difference between the parties in relation to granting temporary protection visas (TPVs). Depending on who is elected , NGOs working in this space, including RASSA, will no doubt be making strong representations to the government to grant all TPV and Save Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders permanent protection visas. This is of great importance, as this will mean that the differential rights of TPV and SHEV holders will also be removed, and with security of residence, they will be in a much stronger position to establish a life in Australia.

When voting on the Medevac Bill in January, it was encouraging to see some deviation, at least partially, from the hardline policy on asylum seekers arriving by boat that has been the policy approach of both major parties since 2013. The resettling of refugees on Nauru and Manus is long overdue for obvious human rights reasons, and as I have argued elsewhere, https://theconversation.com/how-the-next-australian-government-can-balance-security-and-compassion-for-asylum-seekers-110713, does not risk increasing the number of boats making the dangerous journey from Java to Christmas Island, as long as the threat of boat turn backs and off shore detention remains in place.

In my opinion, this election is crucially important for the refugee community and I would encourage people to consider the refugee policies of all parties before voting on May 18.

Alex Reilly, Professor of Law, and co-Director of the Public Law and Policy Research Unit, University of Adelaide

Introducing Arvin, RASSA’s star employee

Arvin & Amy (2)

At RASSA we are small but we are mighty, so we are proud to introduce our sole but awesome employee to you! Here’s a little Q&A with Registered Migration Agent, Project Coordinator, Volunteer Supervisor, Man of Many Talents and of Good Heart, Edel Arvin Chang.

Arvin, tell us about your role?
As migration agent and project coordinator for RASSA, I’m here to help asylum seekers by preparing their legal submissions before the Immigration Assessment Authority when their TPV or SHEV application has been refused by the Department of Home Affairs. These submissions are extensive, complex and often require hours of difficult work for the applicants. I also assist refugees with their visa interview by guiding them through the process, accompanying them and preparing a post interview submission. I ensure that we comply with relevant policies and codes of conduct in our dealings with file management. I supervise student volunteers and collaborate with other organisations (Life without borders, AMRC, etc.) to achieve the best outcomes for refugees.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
The most rewarding part of my role is when we get a successful outcome and I get to communicate this to our client. It’s life changing for them, quite an emotional experience.

The most difficult/challenging?
More and more of the refugees we help develop severe vulnerabilities and mental health concerns. The struggles they face can be heartbreaking even for me but my role is to remain focused on how I can help: articulating clearly and strategically what we need to do to put them in a position to succeed.

Describe yourself in 5 words
Respect others, honesty, integrity, competence.

What do you love doing outside of work?
I have a four year old who keeps us busy! Whether it’s teaching him how to swim or learn how to ride the bike, learning how to write and read. He goes to reception next year, the big boy!

What are you passionate about?
I hope someday, consumers refrain from using plastics and other related materials, as it hurts the environment.

5 April 2019

SAVE THE DATE

Stand up #WithRefugees and join us on Monday 17 June for RASSA’s annual Refugee Week Dinner.

Together we will celebrate the immense courage, resilience and valuable contributions made by refugees to Australian society. More details to come soon, so mark your calendars!

YOU CAN HELP REFUGEES, RIGHT HERE IN ADELAIDE

Does the worldwide refugee crisis leave you feeling powerless and gutted?

Did you know there are refugees living near you, here in Adelaide – people who struggle everyday but that we can help in meaningful, tangible ways?

This is the story of one of our clients. We recently provided Hanna with pro bono migration assistance. We have changed her name to protect her identity and chance at protection.

Hanna is from Afghanistan. She has experienced severe physical and psychological trauma in her birth country. Since she has arrived in peaceful Adelaide seeking asylum, she’s trying to build a new life for herself. She is struggling to find employment due to her age and her limited English. Her daughter has been missing for six years now and despite her relentless efforts to find her, she has had no success. It is no surprise that Hanna suffers from a severe mental health condition.

Hanna is one of the group of people seeking asylum who cannot access permanent protection. Hanna is living in permanent uncertainty. She has been a temporary protection visa holder for years now, reapplying every three years. It’s one day at the time for Hanna.

RASSA’s role is to help Hanna with her statement of claims and lodging her application. We also offer a translation service to enable her to express herself properly and we explain her legal rights. When faced with extreme financial hardship, as in Hanna’s case, RASSA also pays the visa application fee on our client’s behalf. If you’d like to help refugees like Hanna, a donation of $35 will fund the lodging fee for one application. That’s one very concrete way to make a difference! Please donate today.

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