Asylum Seekers at Risk of Disadvantage – Report
Tuesday, 6th May 2014 at 11:09 am
A new report claims that asylum seekers living in the community are at serious risk of disadvantage, isolation and marginalisation in Victoria.
The research report, "Can You Please Help Me? How Can We Live?", was conducted by UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania (UCVT) and aimed to provide an initial scoping of emergency relief (ER) and other support services provided by UCVT agencies in Victoria to asylum seekers.
The researchers say the report also aimed to provide the key issues and challenges faced by agencies and the vulnerabilities and barriers faced by the asylum seekers.
UCVT said the report revealed there was a considerable increase in demand for services, which far outstripped the capacity of UnitingCare agencies to provide adequate support – be it casework, ER, financial assistance or social engagement activities.
“This report not only shows the extraordinary dedication of UnitingCare staff responding to people who have survived things most of us hope we never experience, but also suggests that there are modest policy changes which could greatly improve their lives and the health of the wider community,” Lentara UnitingCare CEO Joy Nunn said.
The report said most asylum seekers accessing UnitingCare services didn’t have the right to work and were therefore severely disadvantaged and put at risk of exclusion at their most vulnerable phase of resettlement and community integration.
It also said moreover, asylum seekers faced barriers to adequate services, for example affordable housing, education, training and meaningful social activities.
They also grappled with the issues of only having very limited financial resources and social issues such as communication barriers, social isolation and lack of integration into local communities and insufficient support, it said.
“This is of great concern as the Refugee Council of Australia has stated that in recent years the overwhelming majority of applicants (over 90 per cent) for permanent protection visas have been found to be in genuine need of permanent protection and were permitted to resettle in Australia,” Nunn said.
The report made the following key recommendations.
1. Provide adequate funding for emergency relief and material aid;
2. Provide adequate funding for meaningful engagement programs;
3. Provide additional funding for specialist staff;
4. Address communication, language and cultural barriers;
5. Provide opportunities for education, training and volunteering;
6. Grant all asylum seekers in the community the right to work and assist agencies to help with job search;
7. Build and strengthen local networks to effectively respond to emerging needs;
8. More support to find and maintain adequate and affordable housing.
UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania is the network of community service agencies and missions within the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and comprises of 27 organisations.
Read the full report here.