Six years after the Australian government began sending people seeking asylum to Nauru, there are still around 900 people left on the island, including an estimated 109 children. All of them will have been there for over four years. Almost 200 people lived in a processing centre, including 14 children, until they were cleared out along with tents and temporary accommodation they were living in for the Pacific Island Forum.
Friday 5 October 2018
A new poll by uCommunications has found that Wentworth constituents are likely to back candidates who heed the Australian Medical Association’s recommendation to bring refugee children in Nauru to Australia.
The poll found that 65.4% of the electorate believe that the 95 children who have been detained offshore on Nauru for the past 5 years should be brought to Australia for medical assessment and treatment while only 11.9% were undecided.
It also found that the issue of children on Nauru was one of the top three issues for Wentworth constituents who are undecided on who they will vote for on October 20.
The polling comes as influential community organisations launch a new campaign to call on all candidates for the Wentworth by-election to make a public commitment to support the call to get all refugee children off Nauru and reinstate the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) for all people seeking asylum in Australia, in the lead up to the October 20 by-election.
The coalition this week sent a letter to all candidates inviting them to a public forum to discuss these issues and constituents’ concerns on Sunday 14 October at Waverley College.
Jeffrey B. Kamins OAM, Senior Rabbi, Emanuel Synagogue said this was an issue of great importance to his community and he urged all the candidates to attend.
“The members of our community are deeply concerned about the situation facing refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. They’re especially troubled by what doctors are referring to as a humanitarian emergency for children on Nauru and also the destitution of thousands of people seeking asylum in Australia due to government welfare cuts,” Rabbi Jeffrey B. Kamins OAM said.
“This is a priority issue for our community, which is why they want to have the opportunity to talk to the candidates about this before the October 20th by-election. I strongly encourage all candidates to participate at the Wentworth 4 Refugees meet your candidates event on October 14th.”
For local Anglican rectors Geoff Broughton and Michael Jensen, the safety of families seeking asylum has been a long-time concern. In 2014 they led the Sydney Anglican Diocese to unanimously call for an end to children in detention on Nauru.
“The Anglican Church has grave concerns about the kids trapped on Nauru. We need to hear from all the candidates what they plan to do to ensure the safety of these kids and their families,” Rev Dr Broughton said.
Jan Barnett rsj, Josephite Justice Co-ordinator, Sisters of Saint Joseph echoed these concerns. “It seems impossible that we have come to this. We continue to watch in distress as current members of Parliament become more and more paralysed and resolute in their determination to continue the trauma and torture on Nauru and Manus. Such hardship is now exacerbated within Australia by the apparent purposeless cruelty of the government in forcing many refugees in this country into destitution. We believe it is imperative that candidates share with us their own values and proposed ways forward,” Jan Barnett rsj said.
Executive Director of the Asylum Seekers Centre in Sydney Frances Rush said “Voters in the Wentworth electorate have such an opportunity to show the candidates and fellow Australians that the current way we treat refugees and those who seek asylum has to change and to change in a way that reflects the just and fair Australian spirit.”
Meanwhile, organisations are equally concerned about the cuts to the SRSS.
“At the House of Welcome at Paddington we’ve seen a 100 additional people each week needing food, financial assistance and accommodation. We are deeply concerned about the work exploitation of our clients,” said Lyn Harrison, CEO of St Francis Social Services at House of Welcome.
“The effects from cuts of support to people seeking asylum are already having worrying effects on the people in our communities including Wentworth. We are seeing an increasing demand for Foodbank and homelessness support at our shelter in Kings Cross,” said Carolina Gottardo, Director, Jesuit Refugee Service Australia.
Refugee Council of Australia spokesperson Kelly Nicholls said that it was encouraging to see strong support from the Wentworth electorate on refugee issues.
“These results show that Australians care about what is currently happening in Nauru. It shows that the public wants real action to be taken so these children can live a better life,” Ms Nicholls said.
The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national peak body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them.
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