About the refugees:
Where are the Resettled Refugees in the United States?
After spending years together on Manus and Nauru, refugees have been scattered across the United States and sometimes have very limited social support networks. We need help from everyone, everywhere, to help build a support network that's there for every refugee.
Here are just a few of the cities where Manus/Nauru refugees have been resettled. It is not a complete list:
Knoxville, TE – Chicago, IL – Baltimore, MD – Houston, TX – Elizabeth, NJ – Greensboro, NC – Philadelphia, PA – Winston Salem, NC – Phoenix, AZ – Boston, NY – Rochester, NY – Dallas, TX – Kansas City, MO – Sacramento, CA – San Diego, CA – Ann Arbor, MI – Denver, CO – Nashua, NH – Buffalo, NY – Portland, OR – Tucson, AZ – San Antonio, TX – Atlanta, GA – Richmond, VA – Salt Lake City, UT – Fort Wayne, IN – Tampa, FL – Albany, NY
Why were these people detained on Manus Island and Nauru?
Since 2013 the Australian Government has refused to accept any refugees arriving by boat, a policy intended to deter asylum seekers from making the dangerous journey from their homelands to the Australian mainland via Indonesia.
While the policy has stopped boat arrivals, it left more than 1,500 genuine refugees in legal limbo. These are men, women and over 150 children who lawfully sought refugee status in Australia but were caught by the sudden change in the weeks after the policy was announced.
The Australian government has been unwilling to resettle them in Australia and unable to send them back to dangerous situations in their home countries, so has detained them in offshore Pacific island camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
Why are they in America?
In November 2016, the Turnbull government announced a deal with the Obama Administration to resettle up to 1,250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru in the United States.
Because of Australia’s close relationship with the United States, the pre-existing deal was treated as an exception to the Trump Administration’s stricter refugee policies. This has been progressing slowly, with less than 300 refugees resettled in the first 18 months.
Yeah, but what have they done wrong?
Despite the rhetoric, it is not unlawful to travel to a country for the purpose of claiming refugee status. These people have committed no crimes.
All of the refugees sent to America have been deemed to be genuine refugees and have passed the rigorous ‘extreme vetting’ policies of the Trump administration.
Why would Aussies in the USA want to help?
Maybe you feel crappy about how these people have been treated by the government and find the situation an international embarrassment.
Maybe you’re an Aussie in Trump’s America and want to find an Aussie way to #Resist.
Maybe you’re just someone looking for ways to make the world a better place.
Whatever your motivation, Australians in America have a unique chance to represent their country and make a real, meaningful difference in people’s lives.
What do they get from the us government?
The US Government contracts out its support for newly arrived refugees to several large resettlement agencies which have local chapters across the country. The refugee support agencies must give 90 days of very close support, including airport pickup, accommodation, basic orientation and work placement assistance.
In reality, refugees have reported mixed experiences with caseworkers. From our experience, the quality of support can vary significantly, and sometimes refugees are reluctant to reach out to their caseworkers for support.
The current administration has dramatically slashed the budgets of the refugee support agencies, along with the annual intake of refugees nationally. In some cases we have seen caseworkers who are rude, unhelpful, or have completely abandoned the refugee they are supposed to be assisting.
More information on the resettlement process can be found on the State Department Website.
Can Americans help?
Yes, of course. Please sign up or donate, we need all the help we can get.
Aren’t these just economic migrants?
No. All the refugees being transferred to the United States have been certified as genuine refugees, and economic hardship is not a valid basis upon which to claim refugee status.
The refugees include LGBT+ and atheist individuals from repressive countries, ethnic minorities fleeing violent persecution, and political activists targeted for their opinions.
Why come to Australia? Why not stop in Malaysia or Indonesia?
It depends on the individual. Some refugees had family and friends already in Australia who could help them start new lives, others did intend to stop in Malaysia or Indonesia but found themselves being extorted by authorities.
“In Indonesia and Malaysia they were harassing you and asking for bribes and they take your money so I thought let’s go to Australia,” one refugee said. “I heard that Australia was good for refugees. I heard they were accepted in Australia.”
Why did they come if they knew they would be detained?
When the Australian government suddenly changed its policy in 2013 it took immediate effect. Hundreds of refugees making their way to Australia were caught by surprise and ended up on Manus and Nauru.
Since the policy has become more well known, the flow of refugees had stopped.
Wouldn’t they hate Australia by now?
From our experience, the refugees on Manus and Nauru hold a pretty nuanced view of Australians and the Australian government. While they may have issues with how they have been treated by the government, they have also received hundreds of care packages and messages of support from Australian supporters while stuck on Manus and Nauru.
Many refugees are friends with a number of Australian supporters on Facebook.
I’m meeting a refugee, what can i do to prepare?
Refugees who have arrived in the US have a wide range of experiences. Some revel in their freedom, are highly optimistic, and may have friends who have resettled in the same city – others are far more isolated, have been cut off from their social networks, and struggle in a new country which feels very alien.
A friendly face, basic advice and genuine empathy from someone who’s also a foreigner can go a long way to help them feel more comfortable and confident.
Chances are your partner is struggling with the same things you did when you arrived in the USA – figuring out how to get a driver's licence, navigating government bureaucracy, making new friends and getting used to the American way of life.
It may also be worth spending a few minutes Googling local community groups. Refugees may not be aware of relevant local ethnic, cultural or community groups which you might be able to connect them with.
Things may also come up in conversation which you may want to be more involved with. Can you give advice about where to look for entry level work in your city? Are you willing to be a referee for job applications?
If any serious, urgent or financial issues come up during conversation, however, don’t panic. This is something you can refer straight to us rather than feeling put on the spot. If your partner has had a bad experience with their resettlement agency, this is also something we can follow up on.
In fact, if we can be of any further assistance, or if you have any questions before or after a meeting, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to help.