The Brigidine Nuns Asylum Seeker Project

The The Brigidine Nuns are at the heart of a large group of people who are helping refugees and asylum seekers. These are people who arrive regularly in Australia; coming from every troubled spot around the world.

Most arrive as tourists or students or on business visas. Those who arrive with a valid visa can work or study while their applications are processed. Those without visas are not allowed to work or study and need assistance to survive (see 'Age' article below).

Fleeing war or persecution, opportunities to obtain valid visas are limited (you have 10 minutes to run, what would you pack?).

Many people have been held in detention for years, others have been released into the community on visas which don't allow them to work, to attend government schools (not even to learn English) or to gain access to Medicare or income support. They are 'free' (at least temporarily), but they are still in desperate circumstances.

For more than six years, the Brigidines have been assisting these people by providing accommodation and living expenses, paying detainees' bonds so they can be released from detention, paying rent, gas, electricity and phone bills, providing food, clothing and baby formula. Furniture, tea bags, shaving cream, fruit, Met cards, phone cards, courses, books, study needs. The list goes on.

Reuniting families separated by conflict.

Through all this, the Brigidines have been helped greatly by the financial assistance of many sympathetic people.

The Bid for Freedom art auctions have become the largest fundraisers for the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project. The auctions are possible only through the generosity of the artists - many of them among Australia's most prominent - who have donated works which if sold through their galleries would have fetched many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So far, the auctions have raised nearly $250,000.

Bid for Freedom has helped make significant differences to many lives. Funds have been used, among other things, to help asylum seekers in detention who ne

ed simple 'luxuries' such as phone cards, reasonable quality toothpaste, soap and other toiletries; nuts, dried fruit and lollies. As the Brigidines say, 'Anything that we imagine we'd appreciate if we were locked up' !

Refugees released on Bridging Visas or Temporary Protection Visas need all the basic requisites of daily life - from a roof over their heads to baby formula, from furniture and tea bags to shaving cream, from fresh fruit and vegetables to Met cards.

In addition, the Brigidines often pay for courses, books and study needs for young people from asylum seeker families who otherwise would receive no formal education

Bid for Freedom is organised by 'Friends of Maribyrnong Detainees', a group of people who are opposed to the mandatory detention of asylum seekers for indefinite periods, Temporary Protection Visas, loss of the right to work during appeals and denial of access to medicare or centrelink. We work voluntarily to provide practical support for refugees and we try to assist the Brigidine Nuns in their humanitarian work.


Call to ease bridging visa rules

Jewel Topsfield
'The Age', March 18, 2008

STRICT visa conditions that force hundreds of asylum seekers to live in a state of forced destitution without the right to work or access Medicare and welfare should be relaxed, according to a confidential Immigration Department report.

The review of bridging visas, which was leaked to The Age, says there are up to 3000 asylum seekers at any one time on visas that allow them to live in the community but prohibits them from earning a living or accessing benefits. As of February 2006, almost 20% had been on these visas for more than five years.

The internal review — which the former Howard government received 18 months ago — says these visa holders are reliant on charity for some or all of their basic welfare needs.

"While non-government organisations and some state and territory governments are providing support for emergency needs, it is claimed that many needs are not being met to the mental and physical detriment of bridging visa holders," the report says.

It says there appeared to be a "compelling case" for the Government to provide health care in acute cases. Providing work rights would also allow some bridging visa holders to become self-supporting, improve mental well-being and help address skilled labour shortages.

Under the current laws, asylum seekers on bridging visas do not receive work rights or Medicare access if they are awaiting a humanitarian decision from the Immigration Minister, appealing against a decision denying them a protection visa or did not apply for a protection visa within 45 days of arriving in Australia.

The 45-day rule, introduced in 1997, was designed to prevent people applying for refugee status to prolong their time in Australia and obtain work rights.

The bridging visa review said the 45-day rule appeared to have reduced abuse of the system. But it said community groups argued there were valid reasons why people applied after the 45 days, including change of circumstances in their home countries and poor immigration advice.

But the review did not support the call for work rights and Medicare access for all asylum seekers or the abolition of the 45-day rule, as this would "encourage those found not to have protection needs to remain."

But it said there was a strong argument that some support should be available on humanitarian grounds on a case-by-case basis. It also recommended that immigration officers have the ability to waive the 45-day rule in compelling circumstances.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans told a committee last month that work rights for bridging visa holders were "under active consideration".

This story was found at:


The truth about asylum seekers

From The Asylum Seekers Resource Centre

Asylum seekers and refugees do not get large handouts from the government

Asylum seekers and refugees are law-abiding citizens

Refugees make a huge contribution to Australia

Asylum seekers are looking for a place of safety

Australia's asylum system is very tough

Poor countries - not Australia - look after most of the world's refugees

Reference Sources: