It is legal and a human right to seek asylum. Despite this, all people who arrive in Australia without a valid visa are subject to mandatory detention. People classified as maritime arrivals are mainly held in offshore detention centres. Those who arrive legally and later claim asylum are placed in onshore detention, either in a detention facility or in community detention. Many onshore detention facilities have recently been closed and the asylum seekers release into the community on bridging visas. Currently, an application for refugee status may take many months or even years to be determined. During this time, many asylum seekers do not have access to essential services such as work, housing and primary healthcare and so rely entirely on the charity and goodwill of others.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was declared the Universal Patron Saint of Immigrants by Pope Pius XII in acknowledgement of her life's work caring for immigrant populations in the USA and Latin America. This priority demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the most vulnerable of today's immigrants: asylum seekers and refugees.
Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub
The Asylum Seeker & Refugee Health Hub (The Hub) provides access to a range of health services for people seeking asylum and newly arrived refugees.
The Hub has a formal partnership with St Vincent's Hospital (providing financial support for pathology, medical imaging and a project officer) as well as partnerships with other asylum seeker agencies for referrals and client support. Where able, the Hub assists with referrals to community health and specialist services (e.g. dental, optometry, allied health, infectious diseases & paediatrics).
The Hub relies on a mix of employed and pro bono staff to provide quality primary and specialist health care.
Baptcare Houses of Hope pilot program
Baptcare's sanctuary program provides transitional accommodation and support to asylum seekers. More recently, we entered into a three-year funding agreement with Baptcare, supporting its houses of hope program. This program is designed to increase the availability of community housing for asylum seekers.
CatholicCare asylum seeker support program and refugee settlement program
We have been working with CatholicCare to support vulnerable individuals and families released into community detention, and others who are living in the community on bridging visas with little support. We contribute funding towards case management for up to six families at a time. Further, we work with CatholicCare to support the settlement of new refugees. Our funding helped to support the arrival of 70 new refugees and four families who needed complex-case support.
Catholic Alliance for people seeking asylum
Following conversations with Jesuit Social Services about what we could do together to respond to Australia's increasingly harsh asylum-seeker policies the formation of the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum occurred. Its goal is to turn hearts and minds towards compassion, so as to create a country that welcomes and respects people seeking asylum.
Development of mental health screening tool for adult, child and adolescent asylum seekers
It is well known that there is a high burden of mental health disease among asylum seekers and refugees. Many are fleeing torture and trauma experienced in their home country. This is compounded by Australia's harsh immigration policies and the lengthy delays in the processing of claims. Over the past three years, we have funded the development of an adult mental health screening tool sensitive to the needs of asylum seekers. The goal of the project was to develop a short instrument with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity, which is able to be administered by a non-health professional. The tool has been successful and request made for the tool to be further into a child and also an adolescent version. On completion, they will be made widely available.