Communities sponsoring Manus and Nauru refugees
Canadian and Australian organisations, volunteers and donors are working together to build a pathway to a new life for refugees who have been stuck for eight years in the offshore processing regime Australia runs with Nauru and Papua New Guinea. Operation #NotForgotten was developed in 2019 to provide hope for refugees who had been sent to detention in Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island and had been excluded from Australia’s resettlement deal with the United States. The partners leading Operation Not Forgotten are Vancouver-based settlement organisation MOSAIC, Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) and Ads-Up Refugee Network Canada.
Fundraising for Operation Not Forgotten began in August 2019, initiated by Laurie Cooper of Canada Caring Society, and the first applications were lodged in December 2019. As at May 2021, Operation Not Forgotten has:
- Raised AU$3 million, of which AU$2.6 million has been raised in Australia through RCOA.
- Lodged sponsorship applications for 242 people – 144 refugees currently living in Nauru, PNG or medically evacuated to Australia and 98 separated family members living in other countries.
- While COVID-19 has slowed the processing of applications by the Canadian Government, several applicants have been invited to complete pre-departure medicals.
- MOSAIC and Ads-Up Canada have teams of volunteers across Canada ready to receive the refugees when they arrive.
- Volunteers in Australia working with MOSAIC have dozens more applications prepared and ready to lodge as soon as funds are raised for more sponsorships. MOSAIC expects to have up to 150 more sponsorship places allocated by the Canadian Government in 2021.
Who is involved in Operation Not Forgotten
- MOSAIC, a migrant and refugee settlement service based in Vancouver, is Operation Not Forgotten coordinator. As a Sponsorship Agreement Holder under Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, MOSAIC ensures sponsorship applications are completed in line with Canadian Government requirements, handles funds required for the income support of refugees after arrival in Canada and forms and trains volunteer settlement teams to support the refugees after they reach Canada.
- Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is promoting and coordinating tax-deductible donations from Australians and advocating with governments to address logistical issues which arise.
- Ads-Up Refugee Network Canada is assisting MOSAIC with the recruitment and support of volunteers in Canada to provide settlement support and running fundraising campaigns in Australia for particular refugee families, directing donations through RCOA.
- UNHCR’s Canberra office offers advice to Operation Not Forgotten’s partners, to ensure that Operation Not Forgotten complements efforts to resettle refugees to the United States and elsewhere.
- Teams of volunteers in Australia are assisting MOSAIC to prepare the detailed information required for each sponsorship application, working directly with refugee applicants.
- Volunteer teams in Canada are preparing for the arrival of the refugees they will support and are in contact with the refugees who will settle in their communities.
What is Involved in Sponsorship
Under Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, the Sponsorship Agreement Holder must have the following before an application can be lodged:
- A detailed application which includes all the information required by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to assess whether the refugee meets all of the eligibility requirements.
- The designated level of funds required for income support for the refugee in the first year after arrival in Canada – around AUD18,000 for a single person or around AUD30,000 for a family of four.
- A team of volunteers ready to welcome and support in the city of settlement for the first 12 months in Canada.
As 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.
More information about Operation Not Forgotten and the registration form can be found on the MOSAIC website. For refugees interested in finding out more, MOSAIC has produced a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document about Operation Not Forgotten 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, asylum seekers in this group (those currently without formal refugee status) would need to meet the Canadian Government’s Country of Asylum Class criteria (which is described in the FAQ document).
More Support is Needed
As at April 2021, around 1,430 people remain in Australia’s offshore processing arrangements – in Nauru, PNG or medically evacuated to Australia. Those evacuated to Australia remain in locked detention, community detention or are living on Final Departure Bridging Visas with no access to a financial safety net. Both the current Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition continue to insist that refugees from this group will not be allowed to settle permanently in Australia.
Of this group, up to 280 may have the opportunity to resettle in the United States and 138 are on a pathway to Canada through Operation Not Forgotten. This leaves just on 1000 refugees and asylum seekers with no current solution. New Zealand’s long-standing offer to resettle 150 refugees a year is still yet to be taken up by the Australian Government. Having already lost eight years of their lives, the refugees caught up in this policy desperately need safety and security.
The case for supporting Operation Not Forgotten is explained in two short videos:
- Myo Win, a Rohingya refugee who has spent eight years on Nauru, explains what it means to him to be sponsored to Canada and how much he is looking forward to be reunited with his wife and children who are currently stuck in very difficult circumstances in Myanmar.
- 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 will be part of the team of volunteers welcoming ex Nauru and Manus refugees to Toronto.
How do I donate?
RCOA is receiving tax-deductible donations for Operation Not Forgotten from people resident in Australia. You can donate via Credit Card here.
Donations over $5,000 can be made direct 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