1 June 2020

ASRC submission to COVID19 Senate Inquiry exposes extreme vulnerability due to Government neglect 

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) has comprehensively outlined how COVID-19 has severely impacted the economic security, health and legal rights of people on bridging and temporary visas.

The ASRC has seen up to a three-fold increase in demand for our food, health and employment services in the COVID-19 crisis due to exclusions from Job Keeper, Job Seeker and Medicare.

People are presenting with trauma, poor physical and mental health due to stress and isolation, work exploitation, hunger, homelessness, family distress and violence, both for those previously unable to gain employment and those who have lost employment or income, many of whom were economically self-reliant prior to the pandemic.

In contrast to comments by the Immigration Minister and Minister for Home Affairs that people on temporary visas are expected to support themselves, the ASRC has found that people cannot support themselves because they cannot find work in COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the national emergency the ASRC has seen:

  • 271 people who lost their jobs or had hours significantly reduced presenting for emergency housing and food, while not eligible for Job Keeper.
  • 600 job ready people who cannot find work who would otherwise be in employment, facing homelessness and hunger with no access to Job Seeker.
  • ASRC paid work placements reduced from 40 a month to none for the last two months due to COVID-19.

People who cannot find work and have no access to COVID-19 safety nets, including Medicare are finding themselves facing extreme vulnerability to homelessness, hunger and deteriorating health.

In April, our front-line services saw:

  • 789 requests for assistance through our duty program in comparison to pre COVID-19 numbers of less than 300 per month.
  • 433 people presenting for GP clinics, immunisations and pharmacy vouchers due to no access to Medicare.

People seeking asylum and refugees are in a complex, difficult to navigate bridging visa system, with varying classes and expiry dates.

COVID-19 movement restrictions have resulted in people struggling to apply for visa renewal within time frames and are being left without legal status, which means losing work rights and Medicare in a national health emergency.

The ASRC has strongly and repeatedly encouraged the Department of Home Affairs to take special measures to automatically extend or provide bridging visas with work rights and Medicare along with income support to protect everyone in this public health and economic crisis

Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Jana Favero said, “People have paid tax for years, worked and contributed back to the economy and community, yet cannot protect themselves against homelessness, loss of legal status, deteriorating health or COVID-19 infection.”

”The willful neglect of people in our community by the Government is shocking and wholly unnecessary.”

“We have highlighted to the Department that special measures to extend bridging visas automatically with work rights and medicare could be made without any legislative amendments.”

“Similarly Ministerial powers can be used to extend income support and social services to people on bridging and temporary visas to end the neglect of vulnerable people, so that we are all protected from economic and health impacts of COVID19, and can all contribute to rebuilding and recovery.”

Full submission to the Select Committee on COVID-19

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Sign the petition
 calling on Prime Minister Morrison to extend Medicare and Centrelink to all people seeking asylum and refugees to help them survive the COVID-19 crisis. 

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