Public Statement: COVID-19 response must include everyone in our community, says Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia calls on the Federal and State governments to extend a vital safety net to everyone living in the Australian community, regardless of their visa status, during the COVID-19 pandemic as a matter of urgency.

In this preliminary discussion paper (PDF) JRS Australia raises four specific issues facing women, children, and men in these groups, and provided a number of recommendations to the Federal and State governments to address them. In particular, JRS Australia argued:

– That losses of employment coupled with the absence of a safety net are already creating an increase of homelessness and destitution in the Australian community;
– That homelessness makes it harder for people to self-isolate;
– That people without access to Medicare and Health Care Cards are not being able to access timely health care;
– That women on temporary visas are at higher risk of domestic/family violence during the pandemic;

Carolina Gottardo, Director of JRS Australia, said “Many of the people we work with already live precarious and uncertain lives, and do not have access to support payments, public or community housing, mental health services and even adequate food at the best of times.”

“In the space of two weeks, we have seen a 100% increase in demand for our services at JRS’ community centres in Western Sydney including for food, medicines and emergency relief. People are losing casual work, and are increasingly anxious about being able to pay rent, put food on the table, and buy essential medication.”

“There are more than half million women, children, and men in this country, including more than 50,000 people seeking protection, who are at serious risk of homelessness and destitution because they do not have access to any form of safety net if they lose jobs,” said Gottardo.

Ms. Gottardo cautioned Federal and State Governments not to ignore the public health consequences for every Australian forgetting people seeking asylum, refugees, and temporary migrants in its COVID-19 health response plans.

“We work with hundreds of people who have significant underlying physical health issues, are homeless, and are immuno-suppressed, including some who do not have access to Medicare, and cannot return to their countries.”

“Leaving aside the long standing violations of their rights to shelter, and healthcare, these families and individuals are at serious risk of contracting COVID-19 and not being able to seek timely medical care.” We are calling on the Government to “extend an adequate safety net to everyone who is in need, provide Medicare to everyone who is in need, house those who are sleeping rough, and to help all women to stay safe at home and in the community. It is the smart thing to do as we Australians confront this pandemic together,” she continued.

As the pandemic unfolds, JRS Australia will continue to provide essential services to people in need, whilst advocating behind closed doors and publicly for everyone living in our community regardless of status not to be forgotten.


Media inquiries: Anne Rutherford. M: 0435 941 260   E:

Read more on the implications of COVID-19 for people in vulnerable situations and JRS Australia’s recommendations in JRS Australia’s Preliminary Impact and Discussion Paper (2020).



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