January 2022 newsletter: Impact of Covid-19 outbreak | Access to RATs | Film screening

January 18, 2022

The effects of the latest wave of Covid-19 have already been felt at the Asylum Seekers Centre, with increased requests for emergency food assistance and reports of homelessness.

Covid-19 continues to evolve and so does ASC to ensure we can be here for the people we support. We reopened on 4 January after a short break and, despite staff shortages and an increased need for support, we have been able to keep providing all our services.

We continue to offer face-to-face support across our Newtown and Auburn locations. It is crucial that ASC stays open and provides services as best we can, and as safely as we can. We are often the ‘last stop’ for people with nowhere else to turn and we are committed to continuously finding ways to keep being here for people whilst maintaining a safe environment for all.

We are particularly concerned about the amount of people, including families, who are facing eviction due to prolonged periods of unemployment and low incomes. With large rental arrears, people are often on the brink of homelessness when they seek assistance. Our intensive support team is working with each person to assist them with emergency relief while planning together for their longer-term future.

People who seek safety in our community should not face homelessness.

Access to rapid antigen tests

People seeking asylum are again being left out by the Federal Government when it comes to access to rapid antigen tests. Currently the shortages of tests are affecting everyone in our community, but when supply becomes available, people seeking asylum with no or low income will still be locked out.

The Federal Government’s policy of providing free tests to people with concession cards ignores people seeking asylum who have no access to welfare payments and are therefore ineligible for concession cards. As with JobSeeker and JobKeeper systems, the Federal Government has drawn a line through our community and left some people behind.

Access to rapid antigen tests must be made available to all people on low or no income, including people seeking asylum, who are already doing it especially tough through the pandemic.

Without Federal Government assistance, access to rapid antigen tests relies on having the capacity to pay for and shop around to find tests where they are available. For many people seeking asylum this barrier makes it likely they will not take a test that would give them early warning of an infection with Covid-19, allowing them to keep their families and community safe.

The Asylum Seekers Centre is campaigning for more equitable access to rapid antigen testing and working with all the people we support to ensure they have access to boosters when they become eligible.

If available, community organisations or pharmacists would be able to distribute tests. The Asylum Seekers Centre’s health clinic is a trusted place for people seeking asylum to come to get advice, support from translators to understand the use of the tests and awareness of the often complex physical and mental health needs of their communities.

Covid-19 anxiety peaks for Arthur

Arthur*, a 60-year-old man who’s experiencing homelessness, has struggled to sleep on trains since the Covid-19 outbreak worsened. He moves from carriage to carriage when people sit near him without a mask. “I see someone without a mask close to me and I panic,” he said.

Arthur doesn’t have Medicare, and suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, dental issues and persistent infections. He’s had trouble accessing testing, and can’t afford to pay for rapid antigen tests regularly. “I find myself now very, very vulnerable,” he said.

Free to choose food

No one should go without food when they seek protection in our country. ASC’s food program provides welcome and respect and now it also provides freedom to choose.

In response to the feedback of the people we support we are now offering supermarket vouchers to give people the freedom of being able to choose their own groceries.

There will continue to be pathways for the community to be a part of supporting people with food and welcome. You can donate to our food program directly or volunteer to make and serve a meal at our community hot lunches.

These changes are in line with our current strategy to increase community connections and to listen and respond to the voice of the people we support.

Tickets released for sold-out screening

The new Australian documentary Scattered People will be screened at the Randwick Ritz in Sydney on 10 February 2022, after being postponed in June 2021. The film, which shows the power of music to connect the lives of young people seeking asylum and a group of musicians who visited the Brisbane Immigration Detention Centre. This screening is a fundraiser for the Asylum Seekers Centre.

  • 7pm – 9pm
  • Thursday 10 February
  • Ritz Cinemas, 45 Paul Street, Randwick

Warm regards

Kristine De Guzman
Acting CEO / Head of Services and Engagement

Vale: Philanthropist, activist and journalist Anne Coombs Covid-19 anxiety peaks for asylum seeker sleeping rough