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Asylum seekers on edge as government cuts support

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The Federal Government’s recent withdrawal of financial support to some asylum seekers is another level of “cruelty” that is causing “extreme anxiety” as they struggle to find ways to survive, according to Justice for Refugees SA.

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From April 1 changes to the Government’s Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) were introduced and the impact is now being felt by some of the estimated 10,000 people who could be affected. Changes to policy means that some asylum seekers are no longer eligible for the SRSS, resulting in their financial assistance being cut and forcing many to choose between continuing education studies or finding immediate work to support themselves and their families.

Justice for Refugees SA president John Haren said this was another blow for people who had been in Australia for several years and have “strong claims for asylum”.

“This latest move by the Government adds to the psychological burden and now adds a deep level of concern about how they will survive daily living without an income source.

“For those who are studying, this will mean dropping their courses, in which some are well advanced. For others who are in circumstances where they just cannot work this is causing extreme anxiety about how they will support themselves and their families,” Mr Haren said.

He added that for some their “level of desperation” would lead them to taking jobs offered by “unscrupulous employers” for minimal pay and substandard conditions.

The SRSS provides income support (about 89 per cent of Newstart allowance, or just over $450 per fortnight for a single person), rent assistance, case management and other forms of help for those seeking a protection visa and are in financial hardship.

Mr Haren predicted the changes to SRSS would have a ripple effect on other welfare groups in the local community.

“People will be unable to meet their daily living expenses like rent and electricity and will be forced to seek assistance from welfare organisations already stretched.”

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said the SRSS was designed to provide support for people who are in Australia temporarily while their immigration status is being determined.

“Individuals on a bridging visa with work rights, and who have the capacity to work, are expected to support themselves while their immigration status is being resolved,” the spokesperson said.

However, Mr Haren said the barriers to entering the workforce were high for many.

“People seeking asylum are committed to working in Australia. However, the reality is that in a high unemployment environment, jobs are hard to come by, and employers are often unwilling to take on workers with an unresolved residency status.”

He believed the SRSS changes portrayed a country that is “unwelcoming and cruel”.

“People seeking asylum are an amazingly resilient group but this development will put people on the edge.”

 

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