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Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Image: Julie Webb

Public statements, Letters & Action Alerts

Australia Yearly Meeting Presiding Clerk, Ann Zubrick, has written to Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, expressing concern about Australia's response to the crisis in Afghanistan and the need for Australia to provide safe refuge for Afghan nationals.

"Like many Australians, we are increasingly alarmed at the potential harm or death that may come to those Australian citizens and Afghan nationals who worked with Australian personnel and are now stranded in Afghanistan.

We are concerned that the Government, at this stage, is only offering 3,000 visas to Afghanis seeking safe haven in Australia. We strongly encourage the Government to expand the Humanitarian Visa program, similar to the Abbott Government’s 2015 decision to permanently resettle 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Australia.

We are keen to know how the Government might roll out the expanded program, what timeline is being considered and what would be the role for civil society groups in Australia-based resettlement programs?"

Read the full letter here.

Australian Quakers write to politicians expressing their concern and desire for justice for refugees. Read statements from 2020 below, or follow this link for public statements from previous years

  • Letter to Prime Minister re: Concern for the wellbeing of Asylum Seekers - October 2020
  • People in immigration centre falling through the safety net during COVID-19 - September 2020
  • Action Alert - Refugees and Asylum Seekers - September 2020
  • Climate Justice, in association with ARRCC - February 2020 
  • International Court of Justice ruling re: Rohingya people in Myanmar - January 2020

Friends and Refugees

We believe that Australia can do much better in its response to asylum seekers.

We regard Australians as capable of more compassion and support for people who have been through trauma and danger. Our political leaders should be willing to reinforce this with policies that are just and fair.

The fact that the UNHCR and many human rights groups have spoken out about Australia's approach as in conflict with our obligations under the Refugee Convention is a further cause for concern. As a member of the UN Security Council, Australia should be upholding international standards of conduct rather than adopting a narrow interpretation of its responsibilities.

We support the ongoing concern of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce to “commit to care for, walk with and speak out for those who come in need”.

We will continue to offer practical assistance to asylum seekers and refugees. At the same time we call upon the Government and Opposition to reconsider their policies with a view to ensuring fair and humane treatment for vulnerable people seeking our help.

We support moves within the United Nations and in our region to address the causes of the flow of people seeking safety and refuge when their lives are at risk.

In 2018, Australian Quakers remain deeply concerned about the safety, health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees located on Manus Island. The movement of the refugees from the Australian Government’s Regional Processing Centre to other facilities near Lorengau continues to expose them to the threat of violence from the local community. The Lorengau facilities offer less protection for the refugees than previously, where several detainees were attacked and assaulted by PNG locals. At Lorengau, the detainees are subject to further psychological trauma, living with the constant fear of violent attack or robbery.

We urge the Australian Government to give effect to its obligations under the Refugee Convention. While approximately 80 eligible asylum seekers have so far been resettled in the United States, the Government should take greater steps to speed up this process, and to reconsider the resettlement offer recently renewed by New Zealand. Australia’s response should end the dehumanising and cruel treatment of the Manus Island refugees and asylum seekers. We call for the implementation of humane solutions, informed by compassion.

Friends involvement in refugee action

We have always welcomed refugees to our Meetings and have recently been joined by Quakers from Africa. Several of our Regional Meetings have support programs for refugees and some joined the recent Sanctuary program to provide protection for asylum seekers.

  • The Quaker Shop in Adelaide raises significant amounts of money each year to assist refugees in Australia and overseas. 
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation is a lobbying organization in the public interest founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends. FCNL works for social and economic justice, peace, stewardship of the environment, and good government.
  • Quaker United Nations Office is a non-governmental organisation representing the Religious Society of Friends at the United Nations. Parent bodies of QUNO are the Friends World Committee for Consultation, American Friends Service Committee and Quaker Peace and Social Witness. FWCC holds consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and has offices in Geneva and New York City.