The Federal Government’s temporary COVID-19 disaster payment for people in Victoria is welcome, however, it crucially leaves out the most vulnerable people in the community and is a continuation of the Government’s arbitrary and harmful treatment of people seeking asylum.
The disaster support payment will provide people who cannot work in COVID-19 hotspots $500 or $325 on a week-by-week basis, regardless of their visa. However, this payment will exclude people seeking asylum who do not have the right to work or are unable to work in Australia.
The ASRC is currently supporting over 2,600 people living in the community who do not have work rights. This can be due to not having a visa, this is often due to the long waiting times for visa renewal or determination, however, even people with a bridging visa, do not necessarily have work rights.
People seeking asylum in Australia without work rights or out of work are some of the most vulnerable in our community. Out of the 400-plus people (including around 130 children) supported a week by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Community Food Program over 80% have no income. The majority of those who access the health program also do not have work rights.
Prevented from receiving an income by the Government, people without work rights have to rely on community support due to lack of a safety net.
Unfortunately, this policy is just an extension of the Government’s inaction on providing people seeking asylum with a safety net and denying them the stability to rebuild their lives.
CEO and founder of ASRC, Kon Karapanagiotidis said: “If Prime Minister Scott Morrison was committed to providing a disaster relief payment that made sure people most at risk had support, he would have also included people who get no income from Government and have no work, including those forbidden from working.”
“The exclusion of the most vulnerable in society from this payment is devastating and dangerous, showing once again the disregard for the fate of people seeking asylum.”
Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at ASRC, Jana Favero said: “The choice by the Government to exclude people seeking asylum without the right timeouts from this disaster relief payment creates a second-class status to families and people who are experiencing the effects of COVID-19 like everyone else.”
“ASRC sees hundreds of people a week accessing our food bank and medical services because the Government has failed in its role to provide an adequate safety net. All people should have access to this emergency payment and that includes all people seeking asylum.”
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