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Concerns for refugees unable to access financial support

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As the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is felt across Australia, Catholic leaders are imploring the Federal Government to allow the most vulnerable in the community the ability to receive funding support.

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Last month Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) joined a coalition of 44 Catholic leaders, including 14 religious leaders, in writing to Prime Minister Scott Morrison advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, temporary visa holders and migrants in vulnerable situations who have not been extended government funding. The letter asked the government to provide them temporary access to a financial safety net, Medicare and adequate shelter if they are homeless.

The open letter to the Prime Minister identifies two main groups whose vulnerability to COVID-19 is heightened – the 1.5 million temporary visa holders who have lost their jobs, have no access to any form of financial safety net, to Medicare, to temporary shelter or fundamental support services and cannot return home; and people who came seeking Australia’s protection who have been granted temporary protection visas or are being held in detention centres.

“Whilst the Australian government has moved quickly to support many in our community in the face of the COVID-19 – and they should be applauded for doing so – these actions have shone a light on the millions in our community left to fend for themselves. Action is needed now,” said the CRA president, Br Peter Carroll FMS.

CRA’s concerns were also echoed by St Vincent de Paul Society National Council president Claire Victory who early in April called on the government to extend its funding to the most vulnerable in the community, including the thousands of bridging visa holders who are now seeking assistance from “depleted charities” and are being left “destitute and at severe risk of homelessness”.

Sister Mary Symonds, a local migration agent, said many of the refugees and asylum seekers she worked with were in “desperate need” and she has also written to Liberal and Labor MPs to plead their case to access funding. She said there are also about 80 clients applying to the courts who have bridging visas but no money as their employment opportunities have dried up due to the pandemic.

Sr Mary said food and rent were the main areas of need and if members of the Catholic community were in a position to donate non-perishable food items (such as rice and lentils) or make a cash donation it would be gratefully received. For details they should contact Sr Mary Symonds on 0434 450 666.

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