Home Affairs Moves it Responsibilities to Community

Over October and November this year, more than 500 Refugees and Asylum Seekers across Australia are being moved out of community detention and onto Final Departure Bridging Visas. This will give them, for the first time since they attempted to enter Australia to seek asylum in 2013 or 2014, the right to work. Yet at same time it removes all Federal Financial Assistance and they have been given a mere three weeks to find accommodation and a way to support themselves, in the midst of a global pandemic.

The people targeted by the government this time were transferred to Australia because of health issues, yet few have received sufficient care. The company funded by the Federal Government to provide health care for these group of people has in most cases not provided the necessary care. One man in Adelaide who has needed surgery will hopefully be able to get treatment through Medicare which he can not access on the Bridging Visa.

While in community detention adults were denied access to education and so were not even able to access the Adult Migrant English Services. While some are fluent in English, many are not and none have work experience in Australia to assist in securing employment in this short timeframe. An allowance of less than $100 per week to cover food, basic needs and essential items was provided to people in community detention. This allowance was stopped as soon as people were notified of their change in status, meaning that they do not even have a meagre reserve of funds to assist in finding and setting up new accommodation.

In Adelaide there are 66 people being evicted from their Community Detention homes, 14 families, some couples and singles. Community support services in Adelaide, including Circle of Friends Australia, are organising for the dramatic increase in demands for support and are liaising together to try and ensure all people moving out of community detention in South Australia are able to find adequate shelter and food and other basic necessities.

Additionally Life Without Barriers staff in Adelaide were able to negotiate a three week extension for people to remain in existing community detention accommodation which gives us all a bit more leeway in which to plan and raise funds to assist these people. If they have work then Housing SA will pay the bond and two weeks rent, without an income they will not help. Community members and organisations are raising money to pay bond and rent. It is estimated that each household needs $8,000 for bond and rent. Two people already have full-time work work, 5 more are about to start. Many will travel to the Adelaide Hills for seasonal work. All will be evicted by 18th November 2020.

Circle of Friends Australia has a number of Circles that will be providing assistance. These include:

  • Rent Relief During Covid (Circle 3) will assist people with rent until they find work
  • Rapid Response for Refugees (Circle 110) will assist with any emergency needs
  • Wayville Circle (Circle 111) is supporting three of the families coming out of community detention
  • Covid Support (Circle 124) are assisting with mobile phone, car registration and pharmacy bills, as well as food deliveries and assistance finding accommodation and work.

Any donations will be greatly appreciated – Donate via our secure GiveNow platform. If you have a preference to which area you would like to assist please nominate appropriate Circle when donating.

If you can assist with employment, basic necessities (money for food is being covered by Red Cross at present), transport and so on please contact our Chair Monica O’Wheel via email, info@cofa.org.au.

For more background of this situation see the Refugee Council of Australia’s excellent brief “Removal of Federal support from Refugees medically transferred to Australia: what we have learned so far. Sep 2020