Taking action for the most vulnerable group during Anti-Poverty Week

People seeking asylum are among the most vulnerable groups in NSW, experiencing extreme poverty and disadvantage, said Jack de Groot, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society and NSW Co-Chair of Anti-Poverty Week, as he launched the Week (15-21 October).

“It’s been left to charities like Vinnies to step into the breach left by State and Federal governments who have abandoned their responsibility to look after people with nowhere else to go,” said Mr de Groot.

“We, alongside other community organisations working with people seeking asylum, are asking the Premier to create an emergency relief fund similar to the $600,000 package announced by the Victorian Government.”

People seeking asylum who receive government funding only receive up to 89 per cent of the already low Newstart allowance. After they receive a second negative decision at merits review (relating to their refugee status), this limited government funding is removed and they have little to no access to services essential for their survival. In addition, they face Medicare restrictions, and some have had their work rights removed.

“These inhumane measures are forcing them into poverty and homelessness. Right now we are using our own funds to provide financial assistance, accommodation, case management and practical support for two groups* of men, women and children seeking asylum.

“Since July we have assisted 11 individuals and one family. We are providing accommodation to two people through our community housing provider Amélie Housing.

“We are also funding the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) to provide free judicial review referral assistance and jointly fund a position on the Refugee Council of Australia.

“We believe these men, women and children must all be allowed to stay in our communities to rebuild their lives and be allowed to do this with dignity.

Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs, former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, will be the keynote speaker at the annual Vinnies Rosalie Rendu Forum, providing a human rights perspective on people seeking asylum in our communities.

“It will be wonderful to have Professor Gillian Triggs speak on the connection between how people seeking asylum right here in NSW are facing severe disadvantage. It is tragic that it is left to charities like Vinnies to meet the needs of the people in our communities whom governments have abandoned through heartless policies,” explained Jack de Groot.

“There has been very little public interest in the plight of these people. Vinnies is trying to change this by supporting onshore asylum seekers and advocating for change by telling their stories.”

Rosalie Rendu Forum: 6pm, Thursday 19 October, Wesley Conference Centre, 220 Pitt Street Sydney. All are welcome to attend. Tickets are free but reservations are essential: http://bit.ly/rosalierendu

A huge number of events are planned in NSW to bring the community and thought leaders together to discuss and act on addressing the growing levels of inequality. For more information on APW and events in your area, visit: www.antipovertyweek.org.au 

For more info on Vinnies assistance for people seeking asylum: http://bit.ly/VinniesAsylumSeekers

* One group that Vinnies supports is those who were brought to Australia from offshore detention for medical reasons (referred to as the ‘Regional Processing Centre (RPC) clients). The Federal Government has issued a new visa to this group – the final departure Bridging E Visa. Under this visa, income support of about $200 a fortnight ceased on Monday 28 August and they were promptly moved out of government-supported accommodation.

The second  group consists of vulnerable ‘post review’ clients who were given a negative decision at the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and are currently appealing their refugee status at the courts or applying for Ministerial Intervention.