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Refugee Council of Australia
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Home > Factsheets > Tell me more: questions and answers about changes to SRSS

Tell me more: questions and answers about changes to SRSS

Why are people still needing SRSS payments?

Many people who came by boat have suffered through several policy changes which has delayed processing of their claims.

These changes have meant that people’s claims have been barred or suspended, and procedures for determining refugee status, including review rights, have changed.

In December 2014, the government passed legislation that changed the procedure for determining refugee status once again for people arriving by boat after 13 August 2012. These people were to be ‘fast tracked’ under a new procedure with no real independent merits review and a new definition of refugee.

The government initially said this process would be complete by December 2017. Processing did not really begin until mid-2015. At the start, people had to be ‘invited’ to apply in groups, but this process shifted and everyone was able to apply. However, the government had ended funding for legal providers to help these people, with the exception of a very small group of especially vulnerable people.

Because most people do not speak enough English to navigate the complex system, and most people did not have enough money to pay for a migration agent, people found it very hard to get any help to apply. Then, in April 2017, the government announced that people had to apply by 1 October 2017 or they would not be able to get protection. This meant legal services were overwhelmed by desperate people.

When people first came, they were not allowed to work or study. Many were in detention or in community detention, which means they had to live in particular places without the right to work.

People were only granted work rights slowly through 2015. However, people had not been given help to learn English or to settle into Australia, and were living on the very small SRSS income payments. Many suffer significant health problems caused by their persecution overseas and their experiences in Australia, including in detention.

Their bridging visas were often not renewed or too short for employers. Most had no local networks or local experience. For many employers, this was all too hard:

My company employs people on bridging visas who have work rights and there was an instance where this guy’s visa expired, he was a Tamil guy and they had promised him to renew the visa but he had nothing in writing. But because I am a Tamil person and I want him to still work here in the company I was on the phone for about two and a half hours to immigration to try and find information so I can tell my company and the HR people yes he can still work. So nobody else is going to do that, a normal person is not going to do that.

– Employer at our annual consultations in 2017

For people who came by boat, the Department publishes statistics about where they are living monthly, which we are updating here.

As at 31 January 2018, over 6,000 live in NSW and Victoria. Nearly a thousand live in Queensland and South Australia.

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