Rapid antigen tests provided for people seeking asylum

February 22, 2022

The Asylum Seekers Centre welcomes Multicultural NSW’s announcement that rapid antigen tests (RATs) will be provided for the ASC to distribute to people seeking asylum in Sydney. This initiative includes provision to many multicultural communities, extending RAT access to more people in NSW.

Many of the people supported by the ASC cannot afford the rapid antigen tests they need to keep their families safe. We surveyed the people we support and less than 4% said they bought a rapid antigen test when they wanted one. 48% said they either couldn’t afford one, couldn’t find one to buy or both. Worryingly, almost 30% of people said they were unwell when they tried to buy a test.

A woman with black hair holds a Covid-19 rapid antigen test up to her face and smiles

The ASC already supports more than 380 households with basic food each week, and provided 150 families in January alone with financial assistance to avoid homelessness. We know that access to RATs along with other health products are out of reach for many people. Many families do not have the money to afford for the tests that would allow them to quickly ensure they are safe for work or to spend time with at-risk family members.

“People seeking asylum have been left out by the Federal Government when it comes to access to rapid antigen tests,” says CEO Frances Rush. “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 concession cards.”

The Asylum Seekers Centre’s health clinic is a trusted place for people seeking asylum to come to get advice on how to use rapid antigen tests, support from translators to understand rules and use of the tests and health professionals who are aware of the often complex physical and mental health needs of their communities.

When we surveyed the people we support, 16% said they didn’t feel confident with the use of rapid antigen tests and 22% said they weren’t sure when was the right time to use a test.

We will be distributing the rapid antigen tests through our health clinic, our food program and our community activities in Auburn and Newtown. Because of our relationships with people in the community we can provide translated information and one-to-one support to ensure people know how and when to use a test.

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