1000 students, parents, teachers and educators – representing every state and territory – have released a public statement this week, calling on the Federal Government to extend support to families seeking asylum during the pandemic. Now, schools across the country will take action during a National Week of Solidarity with people seeking asylum this week, to mark National Child Protection Week.
Signatories have called attention to the fact that during the pandemic 16,000 children seeking asylum and their families are being left without financial support – or in many cases, Medicare. As a result, they are at imminent risk of homelessness.
“We believe in a society that cherishes our children and young people and values their education. We understand that in order for students to learn about the world, their peers and themselves, they need a safe, supportive and engaging environment. When parents struggle, children struggle at school”- the statement reads.
The statement goes on to outline the impact educators are seeing on affected students in more detail: “As schools moved to remote learning, many of us noticed the absence of our students from refugee backgrounds. As restrictions came into effect, our schools scrambled to provide laptops and internet dongles to families who could not afford to pay for internet. We heard of children going hungry because they could no longer access their school’s breakfast program at a time when they needed it most. We’ve heard from parents who have not been able to pay their rent since March and are dreading the day the moratorium on evictions is lifted. The prospect of significant rental arrears, sustained unemployment and no support from the Federal government is the reality for many families seeking asylum. Fears of becoming homeless keep many parents awake at night. We see the impact this has on their children.”
The National Week of Solidarity runs from 6th-12th September and will see school students writing letters to their local paper, organising awareness-raising events and participating in a national webinar featuring Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow, spoken word poet Hani Abdile, and people who are personally affected by the issue.
“International law requires the Government to protect the human rights of everyone in Australia. In this global pandemic, we should extend the safety net to people seeking asylum and all others on temporary visas. This would prevent further unnecessary suffering for thousands of children and their families,” said Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow.
“Australia is the land of the ‘fair go’ and that means not leaving anyone behind. We must speak up for the most vulnerable in our communities.”
With the evictions moratoriums in most states ending in the coming weeks, refugee and human rights organisations have called attention to the already significant increase in families experiencing homelessness since the pandemic began. Recent research predicted that 19,000 refugees and people seeking asylum will lose their jobs in this pandemic and 14,000 will become homeless.
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