Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers reaches a new low

The Australian Council of Social Service today joined a chorus of community and human rights groups expressing deep concern at the Commonwealth Government’s decision to withhold crucial support services and proper visa status for asylum seekers proven to be refugees.

“This is a new low in the major political parties treatment of some of the most vulnerable and desperate people in the world. It’s a clear abdication of our moral, humanitarian and international legal obligations,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Leaving people found to be refugees on bridging visas indefinitely with no right to work and only basic accommodation assistance and limited financial support is completely unnecessary and immeasurably cruel.

“We know the result of this policy in the past where asylum seekers were left to live in appalling poverty, with chronic health issues and completely forgotten in detention for many years.

“The community sector is also concerned about the impact this decision will have on their services, which are already under enormous strain, especially as we move into the holiday period. Community welfare groups and charities will again be expected to pick up the pieces of failed government policy.

“This is already largely the case with the hundreds of thousands of people living well below the poverty line on low income support payments like Newstart Allowance. Now we’re condemning proven refugees to live on even less and to be denied other supports. Worst of all, they will not be able to help themselves by getting paid work. 

“The least the Government should do is ensure this new wave of Australians are properly cared for and supported, including providing adequate assistance to the community agencies that will be expected to do the heavy lifting on the ground.

“There is also the unanswered question of what will happen to vulnerable families with children and unaccompanied minors caught up in this limbo of Government policy.

“This latest move represents a failure of our national government in its duty to protect child asylum seekers and refugees. This policy should be soundly condemned by an advanced, wealthy, fair minded country like Australia,” Dr Goldie said.

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155