Council Signs to Welcome Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Marrickville Council has taken action to show its public support for refugees and asylum seekers, including those who have arrived in Australia by boat, through the implementation of signs at Council’s main public buildings and public places.

Greens Councillors Sylvie Ellsmore and Melissa Brooks moved the motion for ‘Welcome’ signs at a Marrickville Council meeting in late 2013. The signs have gone up in the foyers of Council buildings, in the library and the Council Chambers. They have received strong positive feedback from residents. Council has also loaned to local refugee groups for local events.

Marrickville Council Welcomes Refugees & Asylum Seekers Sign

Marrickville Council Welcomes Refugees & Asylum Seekers Sign

Clr Ellsmore said, “Marrickville Council has long been a supporter of refugees and asylum seekers. Many refugees and asylum seekers have made their home here, and Marrickville Council was one of the first Councils to establish itself as a Refugee Welcome Zone.”

“A large number of groups which support refugees and asylum seekers’ rights also operate in our community and are actively supported by our local residents, including the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, Amnesty Newtown, the Refugee Action Coalition, Settlement Services International, and services involved in the Marrickville Multicultural Interagency.

“The Greens moved to put up the signs after hearing from residents concerned about the Federal Government’s & Opposition’s approach towards refugees, particularly in the lead up to the Federal election, and negative comments about asylum seekers arriving by boat from several media outlets.

Greens Councillors Sylvie Ellsmore (L) and Melissa Brooks (R)

Greens Councillors Sylvie Ellsmore (L) and Melissa Brooks (R)

“The refugee welcome signs are a way to show that the local Councillors and our local Council stands with our refugee and asylum seeker communities. The signs promote and affirm the values of our diverse and inclusive inner-west communities,” Clr Ellsmore said.

The motion passed by Marrickville Council included a commitment for Marrickville Council to “continue to implement programs and policies which promote tolerance and multiculturalism, and which raise awareness of the journeys, experiences, culture and contributions of refugees and asylum seekers who have joined our Australian and Marrickville communities”. It built on an earlier motion passed the Greens against the use of mandatory detention and Temporary Protection Visas.

A copy of the motion passed by Council is below.

Media contact: GreensCouncillor for North Ward, Sylvie Ellsmore 0403 977 213, sellsmore@marrickville.nsw.gov.au

MINUTES FOR THE 20 AUGUST 2013 COUNCIL MEETING  

C0813 Item 25 NOTICE OF MOTION: “MARRICKVILLE COUNCIL WELCOMES REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS”

Motion: (Ellsmore/Brooks)

THAT Council:

1. recognises that the Marrickville area has long been a place that welcomes refugees and asylum seekers, providing a new home for people who have been forced by war, civil upheaval or natural disaster to flee their homes;

2. commits to continue to implement programs and policies which promote tolerance and multiculturalism, and which raise awareness of the journeys, experiences, culture and contributions of refugees and asylum seekers who have joined our Australian and Marrickville communities;

3. re-affirms its 2003 commitment that the Marrickville Local Government Area is a Refugee Welcome Zone; and

4. takes urgent action to show its public support for refugees and asylum seekers, including those who have arrived in Australia by boat, including through the implementation of signs at Council’s main public buildings and public places which recognise the Marrickville area as place in which refugees and asylum seekers are welcome.

Motion Carried

For Motion: Councillors Brooks, Ellsmore, Gardiner, Haylen, Iskandar, Phillips, Tyler and Woods

Against Motion: Councillor Macri

BACKGROUND TO THE NOTICE OF MOTION

Clr Ellsmore/ Clr Brooks

Marrickville Council has a strong history of supporting and welcoming refugees, asylum seekers and new migrants. Marrickville Council works closely with local community services to support refugees and recently settled migrants, has implemented a range of policies such as the ‘Strengthening Marrickville’s Migrant Communities’ Plan’, and organises annual programs of events to promote tolerance and cultural diversity, such as Refugee Week celebrations and the ‘Open Marrickville’ Festival.

Marrickville Council was one of the first Councils to sign the Declaration and became a Refugee Welcome Zone, in 2003.

Through the Refugee Welcome Zone initiative Local Councils establish Refugee Welcome Zones by signing the “Refugee Welcome Zone Declaration”, which commits the Council to welcome refugees into their community, uphold the human rights of refugees, demonstrate compassion for refugees and enhance cultural and religious diversity in their community.

There are currently 83 Refugee Welcome Zones in Australia. The NSW Local Councils which have established Refugee Welcome Zones are:

Armidale Dumaresq Council, Ashfield Municipal Council, Auburn Council, Bankstown City Council, Bathurst City Council, Blacktown City Council, Blue Mountains City Council, Burwood Council, Campbelltown City Council, Canterbury City Council, City of Ryde Council, City of Sydney Council, Coffs Harbour City Council, Dubbo City Council, Fairfield City Council, Gosford City Council, Griffith City Council, Hornsby Shire Council, Kogarah City Council, Ku-ring-gai Council, Lake Macquarie City Council, Leichhardt Municipal Council, Lismore City Council, Liverpool City Council, Manly Council, Marrickville Council, Moree Plains Shire Council, Mosman Municipal Council, North Sydney Council, Penrith City Council, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, Randwick City Council, Rockdale City Council, Sutherland Shire Council, Wagga Wagga City Council, Warringah Council, Waverley City Council, Willoughby City Council, Wollongong City Council.

More information about the Welcome Refugee Zone initiative can be found on the Refugee Council’s website, at http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/g/rwz.php.

Under recent Federal Refugee policy changes such as the so-called “PNG solution”, the Australian Government has announced that all asylum seekers who travel to Australia by boat will be transferred off-shore, and even if they are recognised as refugees will not be settled in Australia.

The policy changes has been condemned by human rights groups such as the Refugee Council and Amnesty. Concern has been raised that such policies encourage the myth that refugees who arrive by boat as somehow ‘illegal’ or ‘queue jumpers’.

It is not illegal to seek asylum in Australia, even if arriving by boat. Under the ‘United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees’ (the Refugee Convention) to which Australia is a party, Australia is obliged to assess the claims of those people who seek asylum at our borders, and not to discriminate against them on the basis of how they make their journey.

Marrickville Council has previously expressed its concerns directly by writing to the Federal Government about the off shore processing (see copy of Motion passed at 11 July 2011 Council meeting below).

The installation of temporary public signs is one small way that Marrickville Council can re-affirm its commitment to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers who are part of our community are welcome here.

Other Councils with ‘Refugee Welcome Zones’ who have installed welcome signs include Moreland City Council in Victoria

Previous Council Motion 2011 –

C0711 Item 9 NOTICE OF MOTION: ADVOCACY FOR REFUGEES

THAT the Mayor writes urgently to the local Federal Member for Grayndler, the Minister for Immigration and the Prime Minister, outlining Marrickville Council’s grave concerns at:

• The planned processing of asylum seekers in countries that are not signatories to the UN Refugee Convention;
• The planned reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs);

• The slow processing of refugee status for asylum seekers;

• The inhumane continuation of indefinite mandatory detention;

• The continuation of bridging visas which often means absolute reliance on charities for survival; and

• The continued detention of children in Australia and in overseas detention centres funded by Australia.

Motion Carried For Motion: Councillors Iskandar, Kontellis, Olive, O’Sullivan, Peters, Thanos, Tsardoulias and Wright

Against Motion: Councillor Macri

Absent: Councillor Hanna

A copy of the motion can be found in the Council Meeting Paper Archives for 19 July 2011, at http://marrickville.nsw.gov.au

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