Southern Migrant & Refugee Centre (SMRC) wish to formally advocate alongside City of Greater Dandenong, for the Federal government to reconsider its withdrawal of the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program that supports vulnerable migrants fleeing persecution.
Government’s rationale for withdrawing support that work rights have been restored to almost all bridging visas (on which asylum seekers live in the community) and those who are “job-ready” and who have the capacity to work, are expected to support themselves and should be obliged to work does not alleviate the insurmountable difficulties for these people in their day to day struggle in life.
The SRSS allowance provided to asylum seekers awaiting the confirmation of their refugee status in Australia is about 89% of the Newstart allowance. That equates to $247 per week.
Of the 10,000 living on SRSS, a massive 20% (2000) who live in City of Greater Dandenong, will be affected by these changes to the SRSS program.
Settlement services providers will be expected to respond by 7 May as to who is job-ready and from 4 June single asylum seekers will begin to have their support withdrawn. For families, the process will run between late May and 18 July this year.
SMRC is concerned that this action will leave many people destitute. Having experienced more blows in life than anyone should have to endure, our clients despite trying to empower themselves to integrate into the community through education or job ready qualifications, are now being forced to choose between continuing their studies or finding immediate work to support themselves.
Loss of income and withdrawal of case management support will only accentuate the uncertainty of their status in Australia, due to the language and cultural barriers and the effects of torture and trauma. This action will leave many destitute, homeless and vulnerable to be exploited.
The repercussions for the City of Greater Dandenong and surrounding areas will be catastrophic.
In another cruel blow to migrants and refugee families, new eligibility rules for the Age Pension and Disability Support Pension (DSP) are before Parliament to come into effect on 1 July 2018.
The Enhanced Residency Requirements for Pensioners laws will save the Government and taxpayers around $119 million a year. Under the new rules, recipients will need to have:
10 continuous years of Australian residence including five working years, or
10 continuous years of residence without having claimed any income support for five years or more, or
15 years of continuous Australian residence.
Currently, Age Pension and DSP recipients are required to have 10 years’ Australian residency, including five continuous years of stay in Australia.
The ‘savings’ supposedly mean those who have relied on income support or arrived just prior to retirement, will be ineligible for a Pension, causing considerable hardship on vulnerable migrants at a time when they need support
Through the above changes, a situation of heightened vulnerability and an underclass of people is being created who are pushed further into hardship and worsening mental health. Instead of harnessing skills and potential that these people have to offer, the rug is being pulled from under them.
We urge the Government to withdraw these changes.
Brian Oates – CHAIRMAN – SMRC
Ramesh Kumar – CEO – SMRC