Budget cuts will deepen worsening crisis for people seeking asylum

October 07, 2020

The Asylum Seekers Centre and other refugee organisations have condemned the federal government’s decision to slash support to people seeking asylum in the 2020-21 Budget.

The organisations, which represent a coalition of over 200 others, have been running the Nobody Left Behind campaign since May this year. The campaign has repeatedly called for ongoing support to be provided to 100,000 people seeking asylum who have been left without lifelines during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout.

Last night’s budget, however, not only failed to provide support during this time of crisis, but halved the existing amount allocated for support for this group. This indicates that more people will be excluded from support and left without a safety net over the coming 12 months.

Frances Rush, CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre, said the decision puts more than 100,000 people, including around 16,000 children, at further risk of homelessness and destitution.

“How can someone feed their children, keep their phone connected or a roof over their head without a regular income?” she said.

“People want to work and support themselves but when the jobs have disappeared and there is no Federal Government payment available, people are quickly falling into crisis.

“Homelessness is on the increase and a one-off emergency relief payment does not prevent destitution. People seeking asylum are part of our community and they deserve our support.”

The Federal Government’s recent decision to release people brought to Australia for medical care into the community, cutting them off from support in the process, is an indication of this, already increasing this cohort by 500 people. They are now expected to find work in the middle of a recession, despite many having ongoing serious health issues, a lack of professional networks and/or a low level of English, having been denied access to English language programs.

People seeking asylum are ineligible for JobSeeker and JobKeeper and many were cut off from the SRSS payment when the government changed the eligibility criteria in 2018. Thousands have lost work since the start of the pandemic, particularly given they are largely employed on temporary and casual contracts in heavily impacted industries, such as hospitality. Excluded from most federal government support, many have relied on charities and others in their community to eat and pay the rent. Crucially, many have only been able to maintain property rentals thanks to state and territory moratoriums on rental evictions, which have recently ended in most of Australia.

recent report predicted that almost 19,000 refugees and people seeking asylum would lose their jobs in the course of the economic downturn, and that unemployment in this cohort would double. The report predicted that as a result, 14,000 people seeking asylum would become homeless. The report outlines significant social and economic costs for the country as a result, including a potential bill of $200 million/year for state governments.   With fresh cuts announced last night, the number of people affected will only increase.

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