The ASRC submits petition to Parliament while people seeking asylum lose employment without any COVID-19 safety nets
8 April 2020
The ASRC has submitted a petition to both houses of Parliament with 20,528 signatures from people across Australia.The petition calls for people seeking asylum and refugees on bridging, temporary protection and Safe Haven Enterprise visas (SHEV) to be included in COVID-19 Job Keeper and Job Seeker Safety Net legislation being voted on today in Parliament.
Having a job is the only means of survival for 16,000 people seeking asylum and refugees because of government cuts and changes to eligibility for Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) safety net since 2017.Around 7000 people were deemed job ready, given work rights and told to find a job while their income support and access to medical support were cut off.
People on SHEVs can apply for Centrelink but their application may negatively affect conditions of a pathway to a permanent visa.
Mainstream safety nets – including Medicare for many people – are not accessible to people seeking asylum.
The ASRC’s employment and job ready services have placed 703 people in work since July 2017, with 76 placements in the last 3 months.
In total, 121 people seeking asylum and refugees who have used our employment services to find a job, have come back to us because they have lost work hours or their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis.
This number increased by 10 people yesterday alone. We have seen a 37% increase in requests for support from those who are work ready or have lost work since the start of March.
People employed casually in ASRC social enterprises such as catering and cleaning are all experiencing varying reduced hours.
There are currently 179 work ready people active in the employment program. However, we have had to withdraw 16 of our brokered roles in the past 2 weeks.
Employment services staff are having phone conversations with between 20-30 work-ready individuals daily regarding uncertainty over their current work, loss of work, assistance in applying for other jobs, and providing advice for coping with COVID-19 more broadly.
Director of the Innovation Hub, Abiola Ajemotobi said:
“People have worked really hard to find employment by training and learning English. They paid tax but now are losing employment without any safety nets in the COVID19 crisis.”
“People are afraid of having to rely on charity alone to survive. It will also be difficult to get back in the job market with no access to Job Keeper or Job Seeker safety nets.”
“People’s mental health and ability to protect themselves and their families in order to survive COVID19 is in steep decline and it is becoming a public health risk.“
CEO, Kon Karapanagiotidis said:
“We have shown members of Parliament that the community supports inclusion of people seeking asylum and refugees in the Safety Net package with our petition.”
“Social service organisations including the ASRC are already operating beyond capacity to meet the needs of growing numbers of people who have nowhere else to go.”
“The Morrison government must urgently protect everyone in the COVID-19 crisis by inclusion in Job Keeper and Job Seeker Safety Nets.”
Person seeking asylum, Bala (not their real name) said:
“I work in casual part-time jobs in customer service to support my family with a young child, but since COVID-19 I have no more work hours.”
“We applied for asylum in Australia but have had no decision in three years, so I am on bridging visa with work rights but cannot find a full time job because employers discriminate against non-permanent residents.”
“My car is no longer working, I don’t have enough money to fix it or to pay rent. My family relies on a community organisation for food.”
“My real estate agent will not negotiate with me about rent.”
“I paid tax and worked hard, but now I don’t know how we will survive with no income.”