1562 people at risk of becoming homeless by Christmas due to unfair ‘Fast Track’ policy

Barkhado is one of 1562 people at risk of becoming homeless, hungry and in need of mental health services by Christmas.

Since arriving in Australia from Yemen in 2013, Barkhado and her daughters have had to wait an agonising three and a half years to apply for visa protection. Despite the incomprehensible trauma Barkhado was subject to in Somalia and Yemen before arriving in Australia, it is the ongoing uncertainty of visa protection that has taken its toll on her mental and physical health.

Since the Australian Government’s introduction of the ‘Fast Track’ policy in December 2014, we are now starting to see the human cost of this program on the 24,500 people who have been unable to fairly present their refugee case.

Barkhado and her family now have to wait another 12 months before they are invited to attend an interview through ‘Fast Track’ and while they wait Barkhado’s family hold grave concerns for her health.

Approximately 3000 people across the country this Christmas and twice that by Christmas 2018 – including children born in Australia – could be destitute. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is already experiencing a huge increase in people presenting at our doors who are risk of homelessness and predict 1562 additional people will be at our doorstep by Christmas.

Of those that arrived by boat between 13 August 2012 and 31 December 2013, 30% or 1051 people have been refused, an increase from 5% under the previous, fairer process.

People seeking asylum whose applications have been rejected, won’t have access to income support, welfare and Medicare, and around half will no longer have the right to work in Australia while they appeal the decision.

“They are in absolute destitution, left to perish for up to two to three years while their refugee claims are being considered”, said the ASRC’s CEO, Kon Karapanagiotidis. “The intention of the government is to make things so unbearable that they all give up and go back home to danger.”

To ensure people seeking asylum have the best possible chance, the ASRC is dedicating maximum resources towards providing legal services to any person seeking asylum in Victoria, as well boosting its humanitarian services to cope with the predicted 1,562 people who will be at our doorstep and near destitute by this Christmas, and 2157 that the ASRC predicts will be in dire need of housing, food and mental health services by Christmas 2018. This need is an addition to the 3,000 people the organisation already supports annually with legal advice, casework and employment services, food and shelter, healthcare and education programs.

“The government has cut legal assistance by 85% and has extended the application form to 101 questions that is only available in English and requires them to accurately specify their place of residence and work and study details since birth,” said Karapanagiotidis. “This is the most complex process in living memory. The system is set up for people to fail.”

The ASRC is hosting a Telethon on 20 June 2017, on World Refugee Day and is also urging the public to donate generously to the ASRC Winter Appeal before 30 June 2017 to ensure the organisation can respond to the unprecedented demand for key housing, food aid and mental health services that will support the 1562 people like Barkhado, and at least 3,000 nationally by Christmas, who are struggling to get by under ‘Fast Track’.

“As an independent human rights organisation, support from our community is the only way to keep the lights on and our 30+ programs open. If we fail to raise the funds needed, many of the people in crisis will have nowhere else to turn to for help,” said Karapanagiotidis. “Families, single women and children will end up homeless on the streets, and hundreds will be at risk of going hungry and be without the vital mental health care and support they need to not lose hope and stay safe.”

How to donate:
• Call 1300 692 772 (or 1300 MYASRC)
• SMS HOPE to 0437 371 371 to make a $20 donation
• Donate online at asrc.org.au/donate

For further information, a fact sheet, further case studies or for an interview please contact Iva Tay on 0449 623 946 or email iva.t@asrc.org.au.

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