Operation #NotForgotten was developed in 2019 as a community-led response to provide private sponsorship to Canada for refugees who have been caught in Australia’s offshore processing regime and are stuck in Papua New Guinea, Nauru or in detention in Australia and have been left with no viable resettlement options, having been excluded from Australia’s resettlement deal with the United States.
Who is involved in Operation #NotForgotten
- MOSAIC, a migrant and refugee settlement service based in Vancouver, is the Operation #NotForgotten coordinator.
- The Refugee Council of Australia is promoting and coordinating tax-deductible donations from Australians and advocating with governments to address any logistical issues to facilitate resettlement.
- Ads Up Canada Refugee Network is assisting MOSAIC with the recruitment and support of volunteers in Canada to provide settlement support and to run fundraising campaigns in Australia for refugee families, directing donations through the Refugee Council of Australia.
- UNHCR’s Canberra office offers advice to Operation #NotForgotten’s partners.
How we’re helping people to find a path to freedom
As at April 2023, around 1,265 people remain in Australia’s offshore processing arrangements – 32 in Nauru, 85 in Papua New Guinea and around 1,150 medically evacuated to Australia. Those evacuated to Australia remain in community detention or are living on Final Departure Bridging Visas, with no access to a financial safety net. The Australian Government policy (supported by both the recently elected Labor government and the Liberal-National opposition) is that refugees from this group will not be allowed to settle permanently in Australia.
With this policy remaining in place, hundreds of refugees face the prospect of being left with no permanent home and no opportunity to put their past persecution in their country of origin and their decade of mistreatment under Australia’s offshore processing policy behind them. The United States, which has resettled around 1,080 refugees since 2017, is close to the end of its resettlement arrangement and is receiving no new applications. Resettlement to New Zealand (which the Australian Government finally agreed to in April 2022 after nine years of delay) offers 450 places over the three years to June 2025. This leaves private sponsorship to Canada as the only resettlement alternative for those not included in arrangements with the United States and New Zealand.
The case for supporting Operation #NotForgotten is explained in two short videos:
- Myo Win, a Rohingya refugee who spent eight years on Nauru, explains what it means to him to be sponsored to Canada and how much he is looking forward to being reunited with his wife and children who are currently in very difficult circumstances in Asia.
- Bryan Gaensler, the 1999 Young Australian of the Year and now a permanent resident of Canada, shares how his grandmother’s experience as a refugee fleeing Nazi Germany has influenced his decision to become a volunteer with Ads Up Canada. He is part of the team of volunteers welcoming ex Nauru and Manus refugees to Toronto.
What is involved in sponsorship
Under Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, the Sponsorship Agreement Holder must have fulfilled the following prerequisites before an application can be lodged:
- The Operation #NotForgotten sponsorship opportunity is only for refugees and eligible asylum seekers who were sent by Australia to PNG’s Manus Island or Nauru between 19 July 2013 and December 2014.
- The designated level of funds required for income support for a refugee in the first year after arrival in Canada is around AUD21,500 or around AUD36,500 for a family of five.
- Sponsorship Agreement Holders must have a team of volunteers ready to welcome and support the refugee in the city of settlement for the first 12 months in Canada.
Given the sponsorship program also reunites families which have been separated by refugee flight, funds and support must be available for a spouse or children under 22 years who are in other countries.
As Operation #NotForgotten is sponsoring a mixture of single adult refugees and family groups, the current average cost per person is around AUD16,500. The funds raised for sponsorship ensure that newly arrived refugees in Canada have money to live on during their first year. Refugees (like other new arrivals to Canada) have to wait 12 months before being eligible for any income support available from Canada’s provincial governments.
More information about Operation #NotForgotten can be found on the MOSAIC website. For refugees interested in more details, MOSAIC has produced a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document about Operation #NotForgotten in English, Bengali, Persian and Tamil. This sponsorship opportunity is only for refugees and eligible asylum seekers who were sent by Australia to Manus Island or Nauru between 19 July 2013 and December 2014. To be eligible, people seeking asylum in this group (those currently without formal refugee status) would need to meet the Canadian Government’s Country of Asylum Class criteria.
What we’ve achieved so far
Fundraising for Operation #NotForgotten began in August 2019, initiated by Laurie Cooper of Canada Caring Society, and the first applications were lodged in December 2019. As at April 2023:
- Operation #NotForgotten has raised AU$5.35 million, of which AU$4.9 million has been raised in Australia through the Refugee Council of Australia.
- With the funds raised, MOSAIC has active sponsorship applications for 163 refugees and 130 separated family members – 293 resettlement spots.
- Of these, the first 32 sponsored refugees have already been resettled to Canada and have begun new lives there.
- MOSAIC and Ads-Up Canada have teams of volunteers in five provinces across Canada (British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba) ready to receive the refugees as they arrive.
- Dozens more refugees are expected to arrive in Canada throughout 2023 and the process of family reunion is expected to begin very soon. Once refugees are resettled, they have 12 months to apply for visas for the spouses and children included in their sponsorship applications. The arrival of family members will end 10 years of separation for the refugees sent to Nauru and Manus Island in 2013.
I want to help, what can I do?
The Refugee Council of Australia is receiving tax-deductible donations for Operation #NotForgotten from people resident in Australia. You can donate via Credit Card here.
Donations over $5,000 can be deposited directly into our bank account. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can identify your payment. Account name: Refugee Council of Australia. BSB: 062 033. Account number: 1043 2319
Please also consider sharing our Operation #Not Forgotten infographic with your friends and networks.