Drastic cuts to welfare support for asylum seekers, as the Government plays politics with vulnerable lives.
In June 2018 our government stopped payment to refugees on SRSS visas.
Changes to the SRSS regime ( the welfare support for asylum seekers provided by the government) were imposed late last year when individual asylum seekers – living legally in the Australian community on bridging visas – were told they were being cut off from their support
Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the changes to the payments meant individuals and families waiting for their protection claims to be assessed could not pay rent, buy food or access mental healthcare, and said it was a “cruel twist of irony” to demand higher language requirements of would-be citizens while removing support from those studying English.
SRSS providers, as part of their contracts, are gagged from speaking about the details of government policy on service provision.
These cuts have had immediate impact. Asylum seekers have been forced to choose between continuing to study for a qualification – for example, a forklift license – and finding lower-skilled work straight away.
The choice has really become between learning English full-time and immediately entering the workforce.
Those stripped of their SRSS have now become vulnerable to exploitation in the workforce, forced to take any job, under any conditions, in order to survive.
This new policy is “deliberately punitive” and pushing asylum seekers towards destitution. “How does homelessness help with integration?”
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said: “Individuals on a bridging visa with work rights, and who have the capacity to work, are expected to support themselves while their immigration status is being resolved.”
The spokesperson said studying basic English on a part-time basis would not “automatically” preclude a person’s access to support services.
However, the ASRC's Jana Favero has responded: “If you don’t support people to meet basic needs, how can they learn to speak English and pass the government’s own proposed language test?”
It's become a no-win situation for very vulnerable members of our society.
In response, Australia pledges at UN to improve its 'human rights situation' however as yet we are falling very short.
In Sydney, the principal solicitor with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, Sarah Dale, said some of the asylum seekers stripped of SRSS had studied and worked ever since arriving in Australia as children, often on their own.
“It’s just further perpetuating this second class of refugees in this country and limiting their opportunity to settle here successfully and to have a bright future,” she said.
“It’s not just a choice of ‘do I continue my studies?’, this is a choice about their future, we are limiting their ability to build a new life for themselves, and to integrate in Australia.” she said.
The Greens’ immigration spokesman, Nick McKim, also said cutting support payments to asylum seekers was “unconscionably cruel and punitive”.
“This is a deeply unfair decision which could force people into poverty, homelessness and exploitative jobs. Many people affected by these cuts are studying, and all of them are trying to rebuild their lives.”
Labor’s immigration spokesman, Shayne Neumann, said any abuses in the system should be stamped out, but urged the government to “stop playing politics” with vulnerable people.
So why have i.feed.refugees mobilized to fill the gaps?
i.feedrefugees is simply not interested in playing politics. Our focus is action without bureaucracy getting in the way of the solution. We feel very strongly if you invite someone into your home, you offer them "a cup of tea", you don't push them straight out the back door with a boot in the backside to fend for themselves.
These are vulnerable people, with no support networks, in a new country with little or no language skills. Where their qualifications are not recognised, and often they have no work rights due to government bureaucracy.
Our model is one of individuals partnering with grassroots operations to provide culturally relevant fresh food vouchers to refugees in crisis.
i.feed.refugee feed souls
How can you help?
It's pretty basic - buy an i.feed.refugee organic cotton tee and you will be giving someone access to fresh food of their choice. That is pretty meaningful if you think it through. This is someone who has had to flee their country, friends, careers, and now struggle to support their most basic needs. An i.feed.refugee's voucher is an opportunity to rebuild confidence and self-esteem. It is not a handout of leftovers. It requires the individual to navigate public transport to attend the market, it allows them total independence over what they buy, and it provides invaluable connection and contact outside of their community.
Buying an i.feed.refugee tee shirt or reusable jute shopping bag you will be highlighting the insanity of the government cuts, coupled with that you will also be giving a week’s fresh food to a refugee in crisis.
We would love your support via social media to spread our advocacy. Take a stand and have your say. Each order contains a blank poster, fill it in with your personal statement and take a picture of yourself. Share it to insta or facebook with the #ifeedrefugees.
Thank you x
You may have heard that refugees get more support than other Australians.
This is not true. Read Australian Government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction on the Parliament of Australia website.