Refugee Council of Australia
Charcoal drawing of open hands

With empty hands: How the Australian Government is forcing people seeking asylum into destitution

The stories of those in the shadows

Sadly, Rajan’s story is not unique. His story echoes the daily reality of many people seeking asylum who are living in our communities. It is a story that reflects the twists and turns of a very complex, and punitive, asylum policy that seeks to punish those we should protect.

This report reflects what the Refugee Council of Australia has heard in recent years, during consultations we have held with refugees and people seeking asylum, and those who support them, across Australia. It follows our December 2015 report exploring Australia’s asylum policy, Eroding our Identity as a Generous Nation: community views on Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum, which was based on consultations we held in 2014 and 2015.

Unfortunately, since then things have only become worse for people seeking asylum. This report reflects the 127 face-to-face consultations we have held across all States and Territories since 2016, across all Australian states and territories and, in 2017, with 28 consultations in regional areas. In each of 2016 and 2017 we held seven consultations specifically with people seeking asylum, and in 2017, three of those consultations were held in regional areas. As well, we convene and participate in many regular national and State networks and interagency meetings, and regularly gather information and feedback from our members and friends. The information we have gathered is unique in its scope, richness and frequency.

This report focuses on only one part of these extremely rich discussions: the policies that have marginalised people seeking asylum and forced them into destitution. We aim to release more reports on other aspects of our asylum policies over the next year, including on temporary protection.

We have focused on this first because the issue is increasingly urgent, with the prospect of thousands more being forced into destitution in the next few months.

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