Cuts to support for people seeking asylum to cost states and community organisations close to $120 million

Cuts to support for people seeking asylum are going to cost states and community organisations close to $120 million.

  • As the last two weeks hundreds more people seeking asylum have been exited from vital support services in the latest round of cuts to the SRSS program.
  • The cuts could result in costs of up to $120 million per year for states and community organisation to support people seeking asylum at risk of hunger and homelessness
  • JRS Australia, and other partner organisations are calling on the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Multicultural Affairs Hon David Coleman MP to immediately restore support and stop forcing people seeking asylum in destitution and homelessness

A New Report

A new report commissioned by key civil society organisations who are part of the Roof Over My Head coalition has predicted that government cuts to basic but vital support for people seeking asylum in Australia will only shift spending on to state governments and community organisations, rather than saving on costs.

The report published today coincides with the latest round of cuts which will see the number of people exited from the Status Resolution Support Service program (SRSS) reach over 1,000 since August. The report estimates that the states could be burdened with a cost of up to $120 million if the full extent of the proposed cuts are rolled out into 2019.

This figure is calculated as the cost to support people seeking asylum who are likely to be made homeless if they can no longer access the SRSS. New South Wales will be significantly impacted.

As part of the report, a survey of organisations who support people seeking asylum found that almost four in five (79%) of the people they help were likely to face homelessness and destitution if they were no longer eligible for SRSS. According to the report, many families are already couch- surfing or living in over-crowded accommodation and would be forced into poverty without the SRSS safety net.

JRS Australia Director Carolina Gottardo said that the report’s conclusions highlight the fact that the changes to SRSS will have negative consequences for people seeking asylum, local and state governments, and everyone else in the community.

“This report reinforces what we have been seeing on the ground since last year. The majority of people affected have been in limbo for years, both in community and in detention centres, and often without the right to work. When combined with the challenges of racism, not having qualifications recognised, and not having any local work experience, the chances of finding sustainable work are low.”

Many children, women, and men are already living in destitution and homelessness, and the costs of the federal government’s negligence are being borne by organisations like JRS, state governments and everyday Australians, Ms Gottardo said.

The report’s lead author, John van Kooy, said it is not uncommon for people seeking asylum to face great hardship whilst they await their immigration status – with many already accessing emergency accommodation and food banks.

“What this report shows is that these families will only be pushed further into poverty and isolation as a result of changes to SRSS with a huge potential knock on effect to state governments and community organisations – they could be forced to provide a safety net to the tune of up to $120 million,” Mr van Kooy said.

Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power said the crisis on Nauru has shone a spotlight on the government’s attitude towards refugees and people seeking asylum which needs to change.

“People may have had a traumatic time when they were forced to travel to Australia, are likely to be living in temporary accommodation and may be struggling to secure a job without access to English lessons.

“Without needing Cabinet approval or legislation, the Minister for Immigration has the power to reverse these cuts so that people seeking asylum in Australia have access to very basic but vital support while they await their immigration status. What’s more, this will put people in a stronger position to apply for job opportunities.

 “The SRSS program was introduced by the Government to help people resolve their immigration status: how will making people homeless help them to do this? It doesn’t make sense. The

Government needs to keep people seeking asylum out of poverty, destitution and homelessness rather than pushing them further into it. It is crucial that a more just and humane policy is implemented in Australia now,” he said.

The Roof Over My Head Coalition calls for SRSS to be reinstated for all people seeking asylum regardless of their place in the refugee status determination process.

Below is the full list of commissioning partner organisations of the report:

  • Anglicare
  • Asylum Seeker Centre
  • Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
  • Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS)
  • Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project
  • CARAD – Centre for Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Detainees
  • Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia
  • Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)
  • Refugee Council of Australia
  • Romero Centre
  • St Vincent de Paul Society

For the full text of the report, click here.


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