Refugee Council of Australia
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Recent changes in Australian refugee policy

Work rights

Work rights

People seeking asylum who came by boat after 13 August 2012 did not have the right to work until December 2014, when the Government reversed this policy for people on BVEs. People in community detention still do not have the right to work.

While most seeking asylum now have the right to work, there remain difficulties in timely renewal of bridging visas and practical barriers to obtaining employment. There are still many people in the community who do not have work rights. On 31 January 2018, 6,790 people with a BVE did not have the right to work lawfully in the community.

Access to support

For many years, there has been a government-funded support program for people waiting for their protection claims to be decided and who were unable to meet their basic healthcare and living needs. The program, now known as Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS), provides them with a basic living allowance, casework support, access to torture and trauma counselling and subsidised medication.

In recent years and especially since August 2017, the Australian Government has been making it harder for people to access this program. People who study full-time, those who transferred more than $1000 to a bank account over a 12-month period and those who came by plane on another visa which is still valid are no longer eligible. As of 21 May 2018, 149 people who had been transferred from Nauru or Manus Island to Australia (usually for medical reasons) have also been transferred on to bridging visas without access to this support.

The Government plans to cut support to more people in the next few months in 2018, and has indicated that there are likely to be fewer than 5000 people who will continue to receive support. This amounts to a 60% cut. The Government has indicated that people who have work rights and do not meet an extremely high threshold of vulnerability will lose SRSS support, whether they have a job or not.

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