Alarm as Government Begins Cuts to Asylum Seeker Support Services
27 June 2018 at 5:42 pm
Refugee organisations are urging the prime minister to put an immediate end to what they are calling a “cruel, inhuman and illogical policy”, as the government begins rolling out cuts to support services for people seeking asylum.
On Wednesday, the Department of Home Affairs began a staggered exit of around 1,500 people seeking asylum from the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS).
The department notified people who are currently receiving SRSS – which provides a basic living allowance of $35 a day and access to health services – that they have work rights and 30 days to find a job, before their support will be stopped.
It comes despite warnings from the social sector that such cuts could result in thousands of vulnerable people being pushed into destitution and homelessness.
The latest move has prompted urgent calls from community leaders, who have been protesting the cuts since they were first announced on 4 June, to restore access for all people seeking asylum.
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) CEO Cassandra Goldie said the move “must be reversed as a matter of urgency to prevent great harm being done in our communities”.
Director of advocacy and campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Jana Favero described the cuts as “incomprehensive, unnecessary and inhumane”.
“We have already seen the impact of cuts to SRSS with a significant increase in demand for our services, particularly housing, food and employment services,” Favero said.
“It’s common sense that in order for people to find a job they need support and somewhere to live.”
Currently around 13,000 people living across Australia receive SRSS.
Between August and November a further group of 5,500 families is expected to be notified of cuts to their support.
Last Monday the Refugee Council of Australia along with leaders from 10 national NGOs, including ACOSS and the ASRC, travelled to Canberra to protest the cuts.
ASRC CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis said they went “pleading for mercy”, warning Peter Dutton of “the humanitarian catastrophe these cuts would unleash on people in our communities”.
“Our pleas for fairness and decency were not considered. This is a tragedy for the families, women, children and men who will now be forced onto the streets,” Karapanagiotidis said.
Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power said if the government seriously wanted people seeking asylum to enter the workforce, it was “going about it in completely the wrong way”.
“People are most likely to find paid work and flourish when they are adequately supported to do so. You do not help people rebuild their lives by pushing them into destitution,” Power said.
“Can you imagine being sent a letter one day telling you that the only means you have to support yourself will be gone in four weeks?”
He called on the government to offer training and support for people on the SRSS, “rather than forcing people into destitution which will only isolate them further”.