“I started this campaign the moment my friend Sanjay told me that his dreams of safety and freedom in Australia were over.
We met 2 years ago when I decided I wanted to do more about the way Australia was treating asylum seekers and accepted an invitation to MITA, one of Melbourne’s two immigration detention centres.
When I got there (only 20 minutes’ drive from Brunswick) I couldn’t understand the high security fences, uniformed guards and complicated rules when I was visiting people who had committed no crime and were seeking Australia’s protection.
Sanjay – who had already been several years in detention – welcomed me warmly, made me some tea and introduced me to all his friends. The contrast with the high-security environment was enormous!
Visiting soon became a weekly event and my sons joined me to keep company with 3 brothers (aged 13, 11 and 10) who were detained there with their mum. We had found a community of friends in a place where human rights were routinely denied.
Two years down the track, many of these friends feel like family, and the visiting community has been gutted to hear that Sanjay must return to Sri Lanka.
One of his friends summed it up perfectly when she posted on social media, ‘Completely heartbroken… Australia has rejected one of my dearest friends application to seek asylum. HOW are we allowed to take so many years from a person to then tell them “no”?….
‘(Sanjay) you wonderful human … Thank you for changing my life. Your friendship and your story have driven my everlasting passion and need to support all people seeking asylum in this country. I am so sorry we have taken so many years from you.’
This response was echoed through our loose community of friends and advocates. We couldn’t overturn the decision but we needed to do something to help.
When I finally got Sanjay on the phone, he kept saying ‘I have no idea about my life’.
That seeded the idea. What if we could create some certainty, at least in terms of finding a home and accessing health care? Money was never going to replace freedom and safety, but it could make life a bit easier.
We agree to crowdfund through Chuffed and Sanjay’s mate Tom Ballard came on board to give us a boost. Tom also put his money where his mouth was, and recruited family members who have also given generously.
We’re rapt that our campaign has kicked off so strongly, and will give Sanjay the last word: ‘Thank you so so much…. I have no words to say for your very big help, I really, really appreciate it’.”
Head to Janet’s crowdfunding campaign page to learn more about Sanjay and how you can support his cause: