11 June, 2013

Refugee Week


The Salvation Army Asylum Seeker Support Services opens three days a week to help asylum seekers from across Victoria who are struggling to survive.  We help with basics such as food, supermarket vouchers, clothing and other donated goods.  

Our centre relies totally on donations to help approximately 100 people per month.  Unfortunately, there are many we cannot help.  In April we turned away 313 and in May we couldn’t see 403 needy asylum seekers.
It’s difficult saying “I’m sorry, but we are booked out and cannot see you…” to people who we know are living on less than a Centrelink benefit.  Some have no income whatsoever and we know many are sleeping on the floor and others are hungry.

Requests for blankets, pillows and other basics outstrip what we are able to provide.

The Salvation Army across Australia will continue to help asylum seekers with basics like food, clothing, furniture and household goods.  The Salvation Army Asylum Seeker Support Services in Brunswick, Melbourne is also exploring other ways in which we can support asylum seekers.

In August we will commence to train volunteers in ways they can personally support asylum seekers who are living in our community.  Our “Connecting to Community Project” will match compassionate community mentors with an asylum seeker who simply need a friend who will help them to adjust to life in Australia.   

Volunteers will supported by a qualified Project Officer.  Supporting an asylum seeker will be a life enriching and at times challenging journey for many Connecting to Community volunteers.  Are you ready for a new challenge and live in Melbourne’s Western, Northern or Inner City suburbs?  Feel free to get in touch with us to find out more!

For more information on our work with asylum seekers please contact us on:-
Centre phone: (03) 9384 8333 on Monday, Wednesday & Friday – 9 am to 3 pm.

E-mail: karen.elkington@aus.salvationarmy.org , colin.elkington@aus.salvationarmy.org , jeremiah.temple@aus.salvationarmy.org

Major Karen Elkington (Major)
Manager – The Salvation Army Asylum Seeker Support Services

"From data captured through our social services, It is concerning that numbers of asylum seekers presenting at centres for assistance has risen and continues to rise. A conservative analysis run in May has shown that there is a 3% average rise across emergency relief and homelessness services.  It is likely that these figures underestimate actual presentations due to either non-disclosure by clients or other data capture issues. It is also likely data would be higher in 2013 due to increased numbers released into the community." Marion Weymouth.

For further reading, check  ABC RN Background briefing here. This breifing states, "Thousands of asylum seekers are being released from detention into the community but under the federal government’s ‘no advantage’ policy they are not allowed to work and they receive just $30 a day to pay for rent, food and all other expenses. Charities are reporting a huge increase in demand for their services and warn that a new subclass of people is being created".

Captain Nesan Kistan at Auburn  in NSW is quoted: "Most social commentators will tell you that you are creating a subclass of people. And when you’re creating a subclass of people you are creating a ghetto, and by creating a ghetto you’re creating many antisocial behaviours. ‘This cannot be blamed on asylum seekers. It has to be considered that when you actually put people into a position such as this you’re not creating a healthy outcome for people. You are not allowing them to achieve their potential. You are actually ripping them apart, you’re demoralising them and you’re putting incredible pressure on them’ .

What is an appropriate response from Australian communities to this type of disadvantage?  Over Refugee Week (June 16 - 22) and on World Refugee Day (June 20) , let us take time to read and delve,  discover truths for ourselves, and ask ourselves how we may contribute to the human dignity, compassion and justice that is so desperately needed.


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