Aussies in the USA helping Nauru + Manus Refugees

Who we are

Ads-Up is a group of Australians in the USA who are working to support the 1,250 refugees being resettled in America under the US-Australia refugee deal.

US resettlement agencies provide 90 days of limited assistance to new refugees – after that, they’re on their own.

We aim to fill the gap. 

We're mobilising Aussies in America to do what our governments could not, create a network of social support and provide financial assistance when necessary.

We've recruited over 300 Australian supporters in the United States to help hundreds of refugees from Manus and Nauru who are starting new lives in a new country.

 

"I'm proud to be Australian, but I'm not proud of what we've done on Manus and Nauru. Now we Aussies have a chance to step up and help these people start new lives."

– Fleur Wood

Ads-Up is co-founded by Fleur Wood and Ben Winsor, both expats based in New York. 

Fleur Wood is a former Australian fashion designer and author. She was a founding advocate for Human Rights Watch Australia and worked as a volunteer in India for the Tibetan exile government.

Ben Winsor is a former SBS journalist who has previously worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the International Criminal Court in The Hague. 

You can play a part as well, sign up to our mailing list to learn more about opportunities to get involved.

"Aussies in the USA know What it's like to start a new life in a new country, so that's an instant point of connection. Of course, when you've spent years in limbo and speak English as a second language – that challenge is only harder."

– Ben Winsor

Ads-Up is a recognised not-for-profit charity under the umbrella of the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs network.

Who They Are

Since 2013 the Australian Government has refused to accept any refugees arriving by boat, a policy intended to deter asylum seekers from paying people-smugglers to take them on the dangerous boat journey to Australian via Indonesia.

While the policy stopped boat arrivals, more than 1,500 refugees were caught out, most of them arriving in the days and weeks after the policy suddenly changed.

Refusing to resettle them in Australia and unable to send them back to dangerous situations in their home countries, the Australian government detained these refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.  

They include LGBT+ and atheist individuals from repressive countries, ethnic minorities fleeing violent persecution, and political activists targeted for their opinions. There are men, women and over 150 children, some of whom were born in detention. 

The United Nations and international human rights groups have slammed Australia for indefinite detention in prison-like conditions, with limited access to medical services. Local authorities were hostile to the refugees, with numerous reports of harassment and violence in both Nauru and Manus.

“The system has led to misery, suffering and even suicide.” – Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch

Refugees have spoken of the hopelessness of being stuck in legal limbo, with no indication how long they will be stranded on Pacific islands with their lives on hold. “This is a prison of water, and no future for children or families," said one man on Nauru.

In November 2016, the Turnbull Government announced a deal with the Obama Administration to resettle up to 1,250 of these refugees in the United States. The deal narrowly survived the incoming Trump Administration but has been progressing slowly, with less than 300 refugees resettled in the first 18 months.

All the refugees accepted for resettlement have passed Australia’s refugee assessment process and the United States’ new ‘extreme vetting’ program.

Many of the refugees we’ve spoken to are elated to be leaving Manus and Nauru, anxious about starting a new life in a country where they don’t know anyone, and worried about their friends still in detention and their families still living in dangerous situations overseas.

"I had nightmares about the camps when I first arrived, I would wake up thinking I was still on Manus. But now I’m okay." - Rafiullah Yousafzai, former detainee

  Photo: Doerte Fitschen-Rath /  StudioDF6

Photo: Doerte Fitschen-Rath / StudioDF6

Learn More

Human Rights Watch: Profiles of Misery on Manus Island

“People have lost hope,” Aziz tells me. “What energy they have – they want to use it to survive. They are desperate and powerless. They never think about their future.”

UNHCR: despair grips Refugees left behind

“What stood out the most from this mission at the time we were there, was a pervasive and worsening sense of despair among refugees and asylum seekers,” a UNHCR representative said. "In our conversations with different people there’s a sense of desolation. People are grasping for hope."

Long road to freedom: From Manus to Arizona, a refugee's story

“When I got the tickets I started to think that 'this is happening'. I was elated,” he said. “It was an amazing feeling for everyone because we were thinking that our terrible time in Manus is finally going to be over.”