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Renewed call for support for refugees, asylum seekers

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Adelaide-based Justice for Refugees SA has joined a call by over 180 civil society organisations to extend critical COVID-19 support to temporary visa holders, including refugees and people seeking asylum.

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In an open letter sent to the Prime Minister last week, the group outlined their concerns that 1.1 million temporary visa holders across the country are in precarious situations as COVID-19 unfolds, with no access to JobKeeper or JobSeeker, limited access to Medicare, and visa insecurity, and called on the Prime Minister, Treasurer, and Minister for Families and Social Services to address these gaps.

Rev Sandy Boyce, chair of Justice for Refugees SA , said maintaining the health of everyone currently in Australia, regardless of their citizenship or visa status, was in the interests of all of us.

“The health of the entire community depends on every one of us being able to safely observe the physical distancing, quarantine and isolation measures recommended by our health authorities,” Rev Boyce said.

“Financial strain and the inability for people on temporary protection visas to pay their rent will have a negative impact on our economy.”

Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia, which is coordinating the open letter, pointed to Singapore to demonstrate the risk associated with excluding large numbers of people from crucial support.

“Like Australia, early interventions meant that cases were low in Singapore,” Mr Power said.

“Like Australia, the Singaporean government introduced extensive support packages but excluded large numbers of people on the basis of their visa status. In recent days, there has been a huge explosion of cases in Singapore among migrant workers living in cramped conditions, as they were unable to safely distance from one another.

“This should serve as a clear warning to Australia.”

Mr Power said many people on bridging or temporary visas were living in overcrowded situations due to financial hardship.

“As the financial fallout of the pandemic increases, this situation will only deteriorate,” he said.

“The Australian Government has shown true leadership in its response to COVID-19 thus far. We’re simply asking them to fill in the gaps.”

Justice for Refugees SA is an active member of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), the peak body for refugees and the organisations that support them.

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