Ongoing support needed for Asylum Seekers on bridging visas

Recently the Federal government made a decision to grant permanent protection visas to some of the people seeking asylum who arrived in Australia by boat. This is an extremely exciting and overdue development which will have an enormous impact on the lives of those who are eligible. They will be able to make use of services previously inaccessible to them, will find it much easier to find jobs, and, importantly, will be able to apply to be reunited with family members they have not seen for years.

However, there is still a small but significant cohort of people seeking asylum who are not eligible for these permanent protection visas. Some of these people arrived in Australia in 2012/2013 by boat but have been refused refugee status or are still awaiting a final decision under the so-called ‘fast-track’ processing system, a system which has been heavily criticised for its procedural unfairness. Others spent years on either Manus Island or Nauru before being transferred to the Australian mainland. Almost none of these people is able to access any form of social security after the Federal Department of Home Affairs, under the previous government, severely curtailed eligibility. While most have work rights, those who came from either Manus Island or Nauru are not permitted to study.

It is extremely hard for many of these people to find work, or at least sufficient work, to make ends meet: they often have poor English language skills, their qualifications are not recognised and they cannot afford to retrain, they lack local work experience and contacts, their age in some cases counts against them, and some have serious physical and mental health problems. Even more importantly, the fact that they only possess temporary short-term bridging visas (usually of only six month’s duration that need to be constantly renewed), acts as a major obstacle to securing a job.

Circle of Friends has been advocating on behalf of these asylum seekers to the Federal government with a view, at the very least, to reinstate some form of social security, but also to allow this cohort of people to re-apply for protection under a fairer system that allows for a merits-based appeal.

In the meantime, however, there remains a large need for financial assistance for basic living costs for this group of asylum seekers. To enable us to continue to support this vulnerable group of people we would be very grateful if you, or anyone you know, would like to donate to Circle of Friends Australia. All circles welcome donations. If you would like your donation to go to the circles that specifically help this vulnerable group of asylum seekers, please ask for it to go to either C110 (Rapid Response Circle) or C121 (SOS for Asylum Seekers).