The Refugee and Asylum Seekers started in about 2015 with an initial focus on Asylum Seekers, largely as a result of the concern being expressed for boat people – a major issue at the time.
Membership of the group has been around 7 to 8 meeting monthly save for months when we did not meet due to Covid last year.
Refugee and Asylum Seekers meets monthly on the second Tuesday at Eden Uniting Church, 10 a.m.
It will soon be launching its ISOS (Refugee) programme for the
high schools and parents groups.
Several members have been very active hosting Asylum Seekers as Afghan and Iranian young men from Melbourne. We produced a brochure Welcoming Refugees to the Bega Vally Shire. We have presented four well attended Public Forums focussing on Refugees coming to live here but not last year because of Covid again. Our next Forum later this year will have as celebrity speaker Craig Foster AM who, apart from his well- known international sporting interests, has a particular interest working as an ambassador for Amnesty Internationals for human rights and refugees.
Arising out of the first Forum we delivered to local High Schools a programme called In Search of Safety ( ISOS) professionally produced by Australian Red Cross. Basically it explains what causes a person to be a Refugee who wants to come to Australia. Several members of the group underwent the training as did several others. We are about to train more instructors and so expand the programme to address parents of the school children.
The R&AS main body after considerable enquiry and with approval of SJASC Executive decided to seek association with the well- established Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI) to bring Refugees from the most needy situations to come live in Australia. It is a nation-wide body whose work involving private sponsorship exemplifies a highly successful model in Canada that has been operating there for the last 30 years. The Federal Govt has given in principal approval of the programme including that of residency. UNHCR will also be involved in selection. Once again the programme is now affected by Covid, ie international border restrictions caused by the pandemic.
Our Bega branch has embarked on fund-raising to meet costs such as: travel, accommodation and other miscellaneous costs like finding employment. Initial estimates could put this 12 month responsibility at say $40,000 for a 5-person family but much less on employment being obtained.
You can support this effort involving monthly multi-cultural dinners in Bega called ‘50 for 50‘ ie 50 attending paying $50 each. The first of these sold out in less than 2 weeks of launch. It was a Greek dinner; the next is Cambodian.