Parliament House event calling on the Government to allow people seeking asylum to work, study and rebuild
27 October 2022
Today, politicians, academics, employers and people seeking asylum met in Parliament House to discuss the benefits and need to provide people seeking asylum with the right to work, study and rebuild their lives.
The event, hosted by Independent MP Zoe Daniel was attended by over a dozen politicians and advisors from across the Greens, Australian Labor Party and Independents.
Following the Jobs and Skills Summit and at a time when the community is calling for more people to work and bring skills to the country, thousands of people seeking asylum are in Australia ready to rebuild their lives but are prevented from doing so by a cruel visa system in urgent need of reform.
Currently, tens of thousands of people seeking asylum are prevented from using their talents as part of the community while waiting for permanent protection to be processed.
People seeking asylum wait on average nearly half a decade for their application for protection to be assessed. During this time they are kept on punitive bridging visas, which were never meant to be applied for the long periods they currently are, and deny people basic rights to work, study and social support.
ASRC estimates that at any given time 30-40% of people seeking asylum on bridging visas will not have the right to work. This is despite in 2021-22 over 75% of people in the ASRC employment program were employed in the seven most in-need industries, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics information.
While the 2022-23 Federal Budget expanded immigration and increased funding to address backlogs, neither of these policies were extended to refugees and people seeking asylum.
Sobia Shah, bridging visa holder and founder of the Professional Migrant Women’s Network, said: “Women in the community on bridging visas have skills and experience, and we need to utilise them. If the government provides assistance by removing barriers, such as child care, work rights, access to higher education and tailored training to minimise the gaps, it will serve Australia. The bigger picture economy will benefit, families will benefit and most importantly kids who were born here and growing up in this country will benefit.”
Jana Favero, director of advocacy and campaigns at ASRC, said: “Providing work rights to people seeking asylum while they wait for their claim to be processed, along with social support and access to study, would be a win-win situation.”
“Politicians can address skills and labour shortages without affecting inflation and refugees are provided with basic rights. It will benefit the community, country and economy. In a budget that provided so little for people seeking asylum and refugees, it is minimal effort for a huge reward.”
Anna Ziersch, Associate Professor at Flinders University, said: “Our research has identified that there is a significant untapped pool of potential workers already here in Australia, who want to work. In a time of skills shortages, allowing people seeking asylum to work and providing good quality employment support to all people from refugee backgrounds is crucial.”
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