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Welcome The Asylum Seeker Parish Support
Catholic parishes play an important role in supporting and serving the most vulnerable within their local communities. Whether it be in the assistance of material, financial or relational support to newly arrived asylum seekers, or being aware and knowing what to do in the situations of family and domestic violence, or reaching out to an elderly or isolated neighbour, we all have a role to play in bringing to life the Gospel message.


On Sunday 21 May 2017 Immigration Minister Peter Dutton announced an October 1 deadline for 7,500 asylum seekers yet to apply for refugee status, or face deportation. Mr Dutton said many asylum seekers were “fake refugees taking the system for a ride”. Melinda Jackson, Principal Solicitor with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Human Rights Law Program said this latest policy change by the Government risks forcing people to lodge their applications without getting critical legal assistance.
 
Read the full letter here.
The Department of Immigration and Border Control is currently undertaking its annual review of the Humanitarian Programme, to consider the size and composition of intakes of refugees under the Programme.
 
Catholic Social Services with several member agencies have lodged a Submission to the Review, as has member organisation, Jesuit Social Services. Three Members of Parliament, Tim Watts MP, Labor, Andrew Broad MP, Nationals and Russell Broadbent MP, Liberal have called upon the government to increase community sponsorship of refugees within the Programme.
 
Member organisation Edmund Rice Centre has released a statement denouncing the government's latest decision to set a timeline on the lodgement for protection for refugees and people seeking asylum. In its statement, the ERC wrote "Peter Dutton has launched yet another unfair and cruel attack on refugees and people seeking asylum".
Freedom Stories provides a welcome respite from the hysteria surrounding asylum seekers, taking a considered and poignant approach to the lives and achievements of former ‘boat people’ who now call Australia home. Award-winning documentary maker Steve Thomas (Hope) explores the stories of people who arrived from the Middle East around 2001, some just children at the time. 
St Mary’s Parish in Dandenong hosts the Too Low in English Program, which aims to assist asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Originally started by Norah McCluskey 13 years ago, Colin Maslen has been running the program for the past two years. One of its volunteers, Celine Tauro, was awarded Volunteer of the Year in the Greater Dandenong Australia Day honours this year.
 
In addition to the 17,000+ volunteers that contribute to the work of our member organisations, Catholic Social Services Victoria, as a peak body, relies on volunteers for some of our advocacy and organisational work. We would be much less productive, and less effective, without volunteer input on our committees and working groups, in organising our forums for parishes and agencies, in drafting our various advocacy papers, etc.  We are in their debt.
 
We currently have a vacancy for a volunteer to assist with our parish support work.

Our request to Mr Peter Dutton, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, is that detention centres safeguard the dignity, wellbeing and personal security of their residents. Click here for our letter; and here for an uninspiring response from Australia Border Force.  A subsequent referral to the Ombudsman has resulted in their deciding to investigate our concerns about human rights.

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As we reflect on the Easter story, let us pray that Easter blessings will flow to all people seeking asylum. In his presentation at our March Forum, Phil Glendenning AM captivated the audience with statements such as "Leadership requires voices to be heard and that’s where people in parish groups come into play. (Parishes) need to say we’ve got to stop treating these people cruelly."

"We have to advocate for the change we want to see, that will provide hope for people." Together, let's do this in the year ahead.
Download our Welcome Newsletter for Easter 2017.

St Bridget’s, Greythorn, Refugee Action Committee prepared this report, which demonstrates how 2016 was a remarkable year of action in response to Pope Francis' call for each parish to "Welcome the Stranger In your midst", and to assist a refugee family.  In January, a partnership was consolidated with St Dominic’s in Camberwell, who agreed to provide 50% of rental assistance for a family. Our members participated in a CatholicCare training program in March which challenged us to think carefully about our role in aiding asylum seekers.

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Catholic Social Services Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Elders in each of the Communities where we work.
 
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