By Stephen Cauchi
21 March 2022
Anglicans will be among those calling for better treatment of refugees and asylum seekers as they join in the Palm Sunday Walk for Justice for Refugees in April.
Palm Sunday marchers will begin at the State Library for speeches, then walk to the Park Hotel in Carlton, where more than 30 refugees are being held in indefinite detention.
Diocese of Melbourne Social Responsibilities Committee member Audrey Statham urged Anglican church, school and youth groups to attend the walk, and bring signs with messages of welcome.
She said the walk had four main calls: greater federal funding of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program, permanent visas for the thousands of refugees on temporary protection visas, and end to onshore and offshore detention, and access to welfare payments for refugees on six-month bridging visas and for asylum seekers waiting for clarity on their refugee status.
“Every three to five years … a person on a temporary protection visa has to re-apply for the visa,” Dr Statham said.
“This places recognised refugees in a state of ongoing legal limbo, faced with the prospect that they might be sent back to a country where they fear persecution.”
Dr Statham said there were hundreds of refugees in onshore detention in Australia and more than 100 refugees in offshore detention in Nauru.
“The conditions on Nauru are damaging for the mental health of refugees, and the cost of Australia’s operations in Nauru will be nearly $220 million between Jan and July 2022 for a very small number of people,” she said.
“It currently costs Australian taxpayers more than $4 million a year to hold one person within the Nauru offshore regime – a little over $11,000 per person per day.”
Dr Statham said the march was also calling for an adequate intake of refugees. She said the federal government’s announcement in January that it would take 15,000 Afghan refugees over four years was inadequate.
She said the situation in Ukraine would also have implications for the government’s policy around its intake of all refugees.
Anglican Dean of Melbourne the Very Reverend Andreas Loewe planned to join the marchers, saying they would walk for people who were unable to do so themselves, because they were in detention.
“When we raise our voices, we give a voice to the voiceless. When we march, we walk on behalf of the detained,” Dr Loewe said.
“We will continue to march and raise our voices until our government and the opposition commit to a more generous, more humane treatment of refugees in our nation.”
Palm Sunday Walk for Justice participants will gather at the State Library on 10 April from 1.30pm. Speeches will begin at 2pm, then at 3pm participants will walk to the Park Hotel in Carlton. About 4000 people are expected to attend.
The meeting point for Anglicans at the Walk will be a banner reading “Anglicans Walking Together – Justice for Refugees”.
Inquiries about the Walk for Justice can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org