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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a questions about the Salvation Army's work with Refugees? View the most frequently asked questions below.

For more information, view our factsheets.

Why did The Salvation Army work in Nauru and Manus Island?

The Salvation Army chose to work in Nauru and Manus Island in order to serve those in need. The Salvation Army provided humanitarian support services for asylum seekers in the Nauru and Manus Island Offshore Processing Centres (OPCs) from August 2012 until February 2014. As an organisation, The Salvation Army provided care and support without discrimination to race, religion, gender, ethnicity, legal status or the circumstances in which people arrive d to Australia. The people sent to Nauru and Manus Island are often fleeing dangerous and life-threatening situations. They often arrived traumatised and in need of care. When in the OPCs, The Salvation Army was committed to providing care for these asylum seekers, regardless of politics or popularity. As an organisation, we have been providing care and support to the world’s vulnerable and suffering since 1865. The care of asylum seekers in these locations is now in the hands of security and facilities management companies.

How was the work in Nauru and Manus Island funded?

The work was 100% funded by the Australian Government. No funds donated to The Salvation Army for providing services to disadvantaged Australians was used to undertake this work. Regular funds donated in Australia continue to remain in Australia to fund our work with Australians in need.

Does The Salvation Army support mandatory detention and offshore processing?

No. The Salvation Army does not support mandatory detention or the offshore processing of asylum seekers. Our calling is not just to engage in debate and discussion, but to stand with, and alongside people who are vulnerable and in need. The Houston Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers called for - amongst a variety of measures - the reopening of offshore processing centres for people who arrive by boat. This policy has bipartisan support from both major political parties and has been further solidified through the Regional Resettlement Arrangement (know as the PNG Solution). While the policy of offshore processing remains, The Salvation Army urges that all claims of asylum be processed as quickly and reasonably as possible.

Why was The Salvation Army working on Nauru and Manus Island if it opposes offshore processing and mandatory detention?

While we may disagree with particular policies, we always have, and will, be in places where there is suffering or need. This is something we have done for 150 years.

What kind of support did The Salvation Army provide for asylum seekers in Nauru and Manus Island?

The Salvation Army was responsible for providing educational and recreational opportunities as well as emotional and psychological support. Activities provided include educational and English classes, recreational activities and access to computer rooms and gym activities. The Salvation Army also organised cultural events, outings and excursions and sporting events.

Was The Salvation Army working with other groups in Nauru and Manus Island?

Yes. The Salvation Army worked closely with other service providers in ensuring people were properly cared for. These include: International Health and Medical Services; G4S; Transfield; and Save the Children. All these service providers are contracted by the Department of Immigration. As an organisation, we have also welcomed, encouraged and supported the participation of various respected human rights and advocacy groups such as Amnesty International and UNHCR to visit the OPCs.

Does The Salvation Army advocate for the needs of asylum seekers?

Yes. We have advocated for an improvement in facilities at both sites and these requests have been made known to the relevant domestic and Australian authorities.

We work with human rights organisations to promote the needs of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, and also the broader needs of asylum seekers in Australia.

We speak to policy makers, politicians, NGOs and the media. Though, due to privacy concerns, not all our work happens in the public eye.

The Salvation Army advocates for the development of proactive, compassionate and appropriate human rights focused policies in relation to all asylum seekers. Watch the video of Major Moulds speaking at the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights.

Was The Salvation Army working with the Government on keeping these people in detention?

The Salvation Army is against the detention of people who are undergoing refugee status determination (either in offshore processing or in onshore detention centres). As an organisation, our preference is for people to be processed in the community. The Salvation Army was working within the current political reality of the Houston Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers and the PNG Solution. This panel recommended the reopening of offshore processing facilities and both major parties are firmly behind this decision, so too a great majority of Australians. (See the latest figures from Essential Vision and UMR Research). The policy of offshore processing is now a reality for the foreseeable future. There are many groups that advocate for an end to mandatory detention, and while we agree that this policy is far from ideal, we are committed to supporting the people affected by such a policy. Regardless of the politics, The Salvation Army strongly believes every person, regardless of their circumstances, is entitled to fair, equal and dignified treatment.

Was The Salvation Army prohibited from speaking to the media? Is The Salvation Army bound by any confidentiality agreements?

No. The Salvation Army was not prohibited from speaking to the media. There are no confidentiality agreements that prevent our official spokespeople from making public comments. We have not entered into any confidentiality agreements with the government that in any way limits our ability to speak to the media or advocate on behalf of those in our care. We have made many public statements and conducted many media interviews since our involvement in offshore processing began. We also ran an active Twitter handle and Facebook account, attended numerous public conferences on asylum seekers and have given testimony to parliamentary committees on human rights.

Did The Salvation Army report abuse or mistreatment?

Yes. Our duty of care to the asylum seekers means any concerns about conditions, suspected abuse or mistreatment and the way people are treated in the Centres must be reported immediately and/or raised with senior management. We also had various mechanisms in place to record and report any such concerns.

Did the Salvation Army look after children in the OPCs?

No. The Salvation Army was responsible for adult welfare services only within the Offshore Processing Centres. Questions and comments about children in detention whether in a family group or as unaccompanied minors (UAMS) need to be directed to Save the Children Australia.

Did The Salvation Army provide medical care and assistance?

No. Medical care and assistance (physical and mental health) is administered by International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).

Did The Salvation Army get involved in refugee status determination (RSD) or immigration matters?

No. Refugee status determination and items relating to immigration are strictly handled by the governments of Australia, Papua New Guinea and Nauru respectively. The Salvation Army has no influence over these matters. Medical care and assistance (physical and mental health) is administered by International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).

Does The Salvation Army have plans to continue its work with asylum seekers in Australia?

Yes. In Australia, The Salvation Army has many programs and services that work with asylum seekers in the community and in detention centres. For example, Auburn Corps in Sydney’s West provides a multitude of support services, programs and activities to asylum seekers, refugees and new migrants. In Melbourne, The Asylum Seeker Support Services in Brunswick provides food, clothing, furniture, vouchers and other necessities to asylum seekers living on Bridging Visas. Also our Community Detention program across Australia supports asylum seekers released into the community through case work and living assistance. Our legal team – Salvos Legal - provides free immigration and legal advice to asylum seekers and others in Australia Many Corps and outreach centres are extending their services to support asylum seekers, refugees and new migrants. We remain committed to serving these people through legal support, food, clothing and furniture, language programs and case work. Salvation Army officers have been visiting and supporting asylum seekers in mainland detention centres for many years. The Salvation Army has also conducted holiday programs for families and children in mainland detention centres and is a contracted provider of Community Detention, supporting vulnerable asylum seekers placed in the community with housing and casework services. In addition, we assist asylum seekers through the provision of care and assistance packages in a number of centres around Australia.

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