Afghanistan and PNG Campaign Updates

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Man provides boy with health check in mother's arms

End to Offshore Processing in Papua New Guinea – continues in Nauru

On 6 October, the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments announced that from 1 January 2022, the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (RRA) which allowed for offshore processing of those who claimed asylum in Australia to take place in Papua New Guinea will end. The agreement began in July 2013.

This means that’s the 124 people currently undergoing offshore processing by the Australian Government in the country – 80 currently with confirmed refugee status – will be the responsibility of the Papua New Guinea Government after 31 December, 2021. Before then, the Australian Government will assist people who want to be voluntarily transferred to the offshore arrangement which is still in place in Nauru. 

Papua New Guinea will offer those who remain “a permanent migration pathway for those wishing to remain in PNG – including access to citizenship, long-term support, settlement packages and family reunification. PNG will also provide support to people temporarily in PNG awaiting movement to a third country” such as US or New Zealand if the offered agreement is pursued. 

The Australian government will maintain offshore processing for those currently in Nauru and for anyone who claims asylum and attempts to arrive in Australia by boat. This policy has been described by the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor as “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment…in violation of fundamental rules of international law” and by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference as “an affront to human dignity”. 

This comes amid the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane’s prayer and action campaign which began on 29 September, the feast day of the Archangels – with St Michael the Archangel the Patron Saint of Papua New Guinea, to end offshore detention in Papua New Guinea in response to the PNG Bishops commission appeal in July 2021. 

Peter Arndt, the Executive Office of the Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane said the campaign will continue, and focus on action and prayer for offshore processing to end in Nauru and for Australia to take up its responsibilities for those who claim asylum no matter how they arrive. 

Afghanistan

Following Archbishop Coleridge’s letter to the Prime Minister asking for Australia to grant 20,000 places for Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s reign, as well as advocacy from the Victorian Bishops, Bishop Vincent Long’s statements in the media, and an appeal in the Archdiocese of Sydney, the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) held a week-long action and prayer week to support the ongoing campaign. The ACBC Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace is a member of the alliance.

The campaign, outlined by In an online webinar (recording available here) by Nishadh Rego, Policy, Advocacy and Communications Manager for Jesuit Refugee Service, is working with Catholics and their MPs through to religious leaders speaking with Government and Opposition leaders. 

Mr Rego said it was “a rapid fire mobilisation of Catholic communities to influence the Australian government in this moment”. 

The campaign consists of:

  • Public engagement such as the national week of prayer and actions and webinar
  • High level engagement strategy with Government and Opposition leaders from senior religious and lay leaders 
  • Media engagement strategy including the Eureka Street opinion piece from diaspora leaders, Hava Rezaie, Hayat Akbari, Zaki Haidari 
  • Electorate based strategy – Catholics in close to 30 electorates around the country to contact their representatives 

More than 500 Catholic leaders in Sydney have already signed onto letters to key Government MPs calling for a more compassionate and welcoming response to the crisis in Afghanistan, including by announcing an additional intake of 20,000 resettlement places for people from Afghanistan at this time. 

Similar initiatives are also underway in other states, and anyone who is interested in participating should contact samuel.dariol@jss.org.au or nishadh.rego@jrs.org.au 

You can keep updated on the campaign at https://capsa.org.au/afghanistan/ as well as sign the online petition with over 150,000 signatures created by the Afghan community and use the already written online letter to email your local MP. 

Photo courtesy of Sam Tarling for Caritas Switzerland.