SIMPLE ACT CAN REDUCE NEED FOR MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS
"Charity expands service; Red Cross to open permanent office [in Griffith] to support mental health" (The Area News, November 9). This article went on to say that Red Cross will place two permanent staff in Griffith to help address migrant mental health issues.
The article also mentioned employing "a case worker to assist humanitarian migrants experiencing extreme hardship". While this is welcome news, it's really a case of throwing people in the mincer and then trying to stitch them together again.
But who are these humanitarian migrants, and are there more proactive ways of assisting them so that these mental health issues do not arise in the first case? In brief, some are male refugees given asylum (meaning they were found to be legitimate refugees) and granted either temporary humanitarian five year visas or humanitarian permanent residency visas depending on the date of their arrival. Those receiving permanent residency have more than fulfilled the four-year residency requirement for eligibility to become Australian Citizens.
Many are Hazara Afghans, a much persecuted group in Afghanistan, who fled from the Taliban with their families and ended up in refugee areas in Pakistan. However, life is dismal and unsafe for Hazara people in Pakistan, where they are not eligible for public services such as education and health.
In desperation to make a better future for their families, some of the men undertook the dangerous trip to Australia, arriving by boat. Some arrived here before the Migration Amendment Act 2013 was legislated banning boat people from settling in Australia.
Most of these migrants, if not all, are hardworking and valued members of our community. They fill much needed roles, many in large businesses such as Baiada Poultry and JBS Riverina Beef. Some even run their own successful businesses! Most have been living and working in Griffith and Leeton for five to 10 years.
From here they can financially support their families back in Pakistan, save money for the cost (considerable fees and fares) to bring them to Australia, and save to buy a car, house etc.
So, given that some have a form of permanent residency in a blessed part of Australia, jobs, and increasing assets, why are there mental health issues? Simple, they haven't seen their wives and kids for many years; they miss them terribly, and they understandably worry about them trapped in Pakistan. The men also feel tremendous guilt that they are here in Australia, safe, physically comfortable, while their families are at risk and with no future prospects in Pakistan. The men need Australian citizenship before they can apply to bring their families to Australia.
The Department of Home Affairs claims to reach a decision on 80 per cent of citizenship for applications from those have fulfilled the four-year permanent residency requirement within 80 days. Yet many of the refugees in Griffith and Leeton have been waiting for several years, many in excess of five years since they completed the four-year requirement. Evidence collected by the Refugee Council of Australia suggests that delays are disproportionately affecting those who arrived in Australia by boat, even though they arrived before September 2013.
It is time for the Australian Government to show a more humanitarian face, to stop their appalling delaying tactics and to grant Citizenship to these deserving people. Then we will need fewer mental health case workers in the region, and Red Cross can put their precious resources to other important needs.
The region will continue to benefit from the services provided by the refugee community through their contribution to the workforce, and eventually the arrival of their families, contributing to the growth and diversity of our region.
Liz Humphreys, member, Rural Australians for Refugees, Griffith
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