The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has welcomed today’s New South Wales Government announcement of emergency funding to support people seeking asylum who have lost jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and been left with no support from the Federal Government.
NSW’s Acting Minister for Multiculturalism Geoff Lee said his government would provide $6 million to agencies assisting people on temporary visas, including people seeking asylum and temporary migrants, building on $20 million announced last month to assist international students in NSW with crisis accommodation. The first $2 million, to be distributed this month, will focus on people seeking asylum – $1.5 million for crisis with food, medicine and housing and $500,000 to support the work of frontline agencies.
NSW joins the governments of Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT in announcing emergency relief packages in recent weeks to assist people seeking asylum and other temporary visa holders.
“The intervention of the governments of NSW and other states and territories is most welcome, as the situation gets worse every week for people seeking asylum who have lost jobs since the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt in Australia in March,” RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said.
“Most of the 97,000 people seeking asylum have no access to any form of safety net and many thousands of them have lost jobs in the past three months. A Settlement Services International survey in May of 461 temporary visa holders, many of them seeking asylum, showed that 75% could not pay rent and 62% had gone without meals because of their lack of funds.
“State and territory governments are acknowledging the growing levels of destitution within their communities and acting. However, it must be acknowledged that this destitution is happening as a direct result of the Federal Government choosing to exclude temporary visa holders from assistance offered to others in the Australian community.
“RCOA has been working with hundreds of organisations around Australia to draw attention to the need for the Federal Government to include temporary visa holders in its emergency responses to COVID-19. Emergency relief funds put together by state governments are very important but they can only ever partly fill a gap for people left with no week-to-week income to cover rent, food, medical help and essentials.
“We would strongly encourage the state governments which have been forced to find funds to meet needs created by Federal inaction to lobby the Federal Government to take its responsibilities seriously. We will be living with the COVID-19 pandemic for some time and, for the sake of all people in Australia, we cannot afford to leave anyone in our community behind simply because of their visa status.”
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