Grant Asylum Seekers the Right to Work

8 Mar, 2013

United call for all asylum seekers, regardless of mode or date of arrival, who are released into the community on a bridging visa to be granted the right to work.

The Asylum Seekers Centre is proud to stand with over 50 organisations and 1200 individuals across Australia who believe asylum seekers should have the right to work. The right to work is a basic and fundamental human right that we as a country should proudly and loudly uphold.

CEO of the Asylum Seekers Centre, Melanie Noden, said finding work is of utmost importance to asylum seekers. “It restores their self esteem and provides them with the financial independence they so desperately need in order to start a new life. It also provides them with a connection to society and gives them the opportunity to contribute.”

And it’s not just us who thinks so. ‘Not allowing people the right to work is a disgrace. We signed the Refugee Convention to protect people, not punish them. The only reason the Government has implemented this is to punish people. Asylum seekers are not illegal and should not be treated as such. Everyone should have the right to work,’ says former Prime Minister, Mr Fraser.

As history has shown, having asylum seekers live on welfare, without any training or skill development for years, deliberately hinders their potential to gain employment when they do achieve permanent residency – and for boat arrivals 90.8% do become permanent residents.

It is estimated that in 2013, 10,000 asylum seekers will be released nationally into the community without work rights. There is no guarantee of the level of support provided to these people. This will put strain on an already under resourced sector and will impact the mental health and self-agency of thousands of asylum seekers.

John Menadue, Patron of the Asylum Seekers Centre, former diplomat and business leader says the present policy of denial of work is cruel, denies the dignity of people and does not deter future asylum seekers. “There is a persistent myth that refusal of work rights and other penalties will deter new asylum seekers and particularly boat people. But there is no evidence whatsoever that this deterrent works. In almost all cases asylum seekers are escaping appalling conditions, from the Taliban for example. Those situations are far worse than anything that we can throw at them.

“But the burden on the individual is the greatest worry. Most asylum seekers have escaped from terror and violence and many are traumatised. To deny them work rights is likely to worsen their mental state. It makes it harder for others to help them if they are forced into idleness.

“We need a breakthrough in this toxic political approach to asylum seekers. Australia can do better than this. We have shown it in the past.”

The Government’s announcement in November last year prompted a group of concerned not for profit organisations, individuals, businesses and community groups to address the lack of right to work for asylum seekers. This includes those who have arrived post August 13, 2012 and are subject to the new policy and those who arrived prior to August 13, 2012 who have not been granted work rights.

Today, we have sent letters to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Minister for Immigration, Brendan O’Connor calling for the right to work for asylum seekers. As a group, the signatories to the united statement call for:

  • An undertaking from the Minister for Immigration to make a policy change extending the right to work to all asylum seekers released into the community on bridging visas, regardless of mode or date of arrival or stage in the refugee determination process.
  • The right to work is accompanied by the provision of basic employment support services to increase the asylum seekers chance of employment.


Contact: Lee Meredith, Asylum Seekers Centre. M: 0432 062 122

For a full list of agencies supporting the statement please visit http://righttowork.com.au/take-action/supporters/