Profile: Refugee Advice and Casework Service
Posted: Sep 07 2014
Next Wednesday, 10th September, we would love to see you at the Storio for our Leopard on a Lotus launch event. On the night we will be raffling artwork by Michelle Ledain and Gaye Chapman, with all proceeds being donated to Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) to assist in their work with children in detention.
Do you know about the work of RACS?
We asked Tanya Jackson-Vaughan to describe how RACS assists children in detention, and this is what she told us:
"Seeking asylum alone without parents or relatives is a predicament faced by many children. Often their parents sell everything they own, so that at least one member of the family will survive. Young boys can be targeted by groups like the Taliban and so their families send them off to seek asylum, in the hope that they will escape persecution.
"Unaccompanied children are especially vulnerable as they do not have adults they can trust. They are often confused as to why their parents sent them off on a perilous journey, causing mixed emotions of anger, guilt and grief.
"The government’s decision to stop funding legal advice has left these children without an independent representative, someone who can advise them of their legal rights and help them navigate the immigration system. Therefore, RACS decided to establish a child focussed project, with lawyers dedicated to working with these children.
"We currently assist 60 children under the age of 18 living in community detention in NSW. They consider their lawyer to be the only person they can talk to on a confidential basis, as the organisations that “look after” them are obliged under their contracts to report any misdemeanours by the children to the Department of Immigration. This work is unfunded but we felt, and this has been confirmed by the children and the organisations that house them, that it was very important for the children to have an independent adviser that they can trust.
"RACS is also the only legal service providing legal advice to the unaccompanied children on Christmas Island. We have 28 clients under the age of 18 who have been locked up on Christmas Island for over a year. These children were unfortunate in that they arrived after July 19 2013, a date which condemns them to indefinite detention on Christmas Island whilst they wait for a spot in the Nauru or Manus detention centres to come up. Thus these children wait in locked detention with no hope for a better future, and in fact know that their only future under current legislation is to be condemned to years languishing on Nauru or Manus in inhumane conditions.
"RACS has now signed up all 28 unaccompanied children as clients and speaks to them on a regular basis about their concerns and fears. They are currently unable to apply for protection in Australia but we have tried to document their protection claims and put together complaints to the UN, the Australian Human Rights Commission(AHRC), the Ombudsman and the Minister of Immigration.
"We hope that our actions will stop the children’s transfer to Nauru. These children are really vulnerable and as you may have heard in the AHRC inquiry are enduring harsh treatment and conditions.
"RACS plans to visit Christmas Island at the end of the month to assist our clients on a face to face basis rather than via a crackly phone line.
"These are difficult times, with laws making it almost impossible to find a durable solution for refugees, with media vilifying people who have suffered torture and trauma in their own country only to be further traumatised by indefinite detention in Australia. At RACS we are proud of our efforts to help children who seek asylum alone and we hope that our work will make a difference to their lives."
You can find more information at www.racs.org.au
We would love to help RACS to provide these essential services, and invite you to purchase a raffle ticket on the night of our event or in-store. Below are images of the artworks we are raffling.
By Gaye Chapman
By Michelle Ledain