Sydney, 30 April, 2012 – JRS Australia is in the throes of its biggest expansion ever, with the number of staff increasing threefold in response to the needs of its growing client base.
This development has come about as a direct result of the government’s revised policies on detention, with the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, announcing recently that selected asylum seekers who have until now been detained in detention facilities across Australia will be placed in community detention in partnership with church- and community-based organisations such as JRS Australia. In response to this announcement, JRS has extended its small Residence Determination Project to provide accommodation and casework to vulnerable adult asylum seekers and family groups who have been released from detention centres.
The primary aim of the Residence Determination Project is to create a safe, supportive and dignified living environment which will enable vulnerable clients to improve their mental and physical health, and to then move into the community and support themselves. JRS has partnered in this endeavour with Marist Youth Care, providing support to 40 asylum seekers identified by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) as being too vulnerable to support themselves in the community.
“Our involvement in the further expansion of the Residence Determination Program builds on the experience and expertise gleaned from our work with adult men and women in the Sydney Shelter Project, now in its fifth year, as well as the work we have done caring for Unaccompanied Minors in Residence Determination,” says the Director of JRS Australia, Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ.
Not only do many asylum seekers moving into community detention suffer from trauma, says Fr Mowe, many have also become dependent on others for their basic care.
“One of the purposes of the community detention expansion now is to try to move asylum seekers into some degree of resilience, some degree of independence. At JRS we have project assistants who come into the house in the evenings and supervise cooking with the men. These are men who in some cases may never have cooked in their lives, coming from the cultures they’re from, or in other cases may have cooked but have been in situations in the past one or two years in held detention where they’ve become completely dependent on a kind of institutional living.”
As long-time advocates for the ending of secure immigration detention for asylum seekers, JRS now has the opportunity through its community detention project to put its advocacy into practice, said Fr Mowe.
“It’s only right that we put our money where our mouth is and show Australia that there are viable alternatives to secure detention. The asylum seekers have not committed any crime and should not be behind barbed wire and high fences. It is ironic that many come here seeking liberty, only to have their liberty snatched away from them. A secure border policy should not trump human dignity and natural justice.”
Catherine Marshall, Province Express reporter