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Home > Reports > COVID-19 and humanitarian migrants on temporary visas: assessing the public costs

COVID-19 and humanitarian migrants on temporary visas: assessing the public costs

By John van Kooy

Commissioned by Refugee Council of Australia

Download the brief here

Key points

  • The ‘coronavirus recession’ has led to increased unemployment, underemployment and financial stress for many Australians 
  • Economic crises can lead to damaging effects on workers’ financial security, mental and physical health, well-being and social relationships 
  • Because many refugees and asylum seekers are employed in low-income and insecure jobs, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of a recession 
  • This paper estimates that nearly 19,000 refugees and asylum seekers on temporary visas will lose their jobs because of the current economic downturn 
  • Unemployment rates among bridging, safe haven enterprise and temporary protection visa holders are projected to rise from approximately 19.3% to 41.8% 
  • For those that remain employed, weekly wages could fall by an average of $90 per week, with 92of workers earning less than the minimum wage 
  • Refugees and asylum seekers who become unemployed, leave the labour force or live below the poverty line are at high risk of poor health and homelessness 
  • Increased hospital admissions for mental health conditions, heart attack or stroke, injury and drug overdose, self-harm and other socioeconomic factors could cost State and Territory governments an additional $23.4 million per year 
  • The homelessness rate among refugees and asylum seekers on temporary visas is projected to rise to around 12%, which will cost governments an additional $181 million per year in health, justice, social and other services 
  • As an example of the local impacts of coronavirus on this cohort, the Cumberland LGA could see an additional 2,587 refugees and asylum seekers on temporary visas lose their jobs—767 of which are likely to become homeless 
  • With a refugee and asylum seeker population experiencing high levels of unemployment, rental affordability stress and socioeconomic disadvantage, the City of Cumberland is at high risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission  

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