The St Vincent de Paul Society of Australia supports the latest #LetThemStay campaign calling for people brought to Australia from offshore detention centres to stay and be supported in our community.

Last year, communities across the country stood with people seeking asylum to demand our leaders #LetThemStay, and the Government had no choice but to back down on its threats to deport people back to harm on Nauru and Manus Island. The Government has just begun its second attempt to send people who are now part of our community back to harm on Nauru and Manus Island. Just under 100 single men and women were notified that their meagre income support payments would immediately cease on August 28 2017, and those in assisted accommodation would be evicted within three weeks. Those affected have been told that they must leave Australia and go back to harm on Nauru or Manus or to the same country from where they've fled persecution. Around 400 people are likely to be affected by the Government’s new hard-line policy, which will force people to turn to charity to survive. The Society has condemned this development as shameful and designed to inflict suffering and anguish on one group of people in a cynical attempt to force them to return to the countries from which they have fled.

See also:   Our media release on this issue.

 

How many people are likely to be affected by the Government’s changes?
  • Just under 100 single men and women (including a woman thought to be pregnant) have been notified in this initial wave. The Government have indicated that the measure will eventually be extended to all of those who have been brought to Australia from offshore for medical reasons.

  • This full group comprises around 400 people, including more than 116 children. Specifically:

    • more than 50 babies born in Australia;
    • 66 other children who were born overseas;
    • 83 single men;
    • 14 single women;
    • The rest are adults within a family group (i.e. with children).
Where are they from?
  • Largely Iranians, Syrians, Afghani’s from a minority background, Burmese persecuted minority group Rohingya, and Sri Lankan Tamils.

  • They were all detained on Manus or Nauru, after arriving by boat from 19 July 2013.

Why are they in Australia?
  • All were brought to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island for medical care, some as the result of attacks, and more than 20 women who are survivors of sexual assault or rape. Also among the group are babies who were born in Australia from mothers transferred from Nauru.

  • Many were party to a 2016 High Court challenge to Australia’s offshore processing regime in Nauru. The challenge was unsuccessful after the Government pushed emergency legislation through both houses of Federal Parliament, inserting a new section (198AHA) into the Migration Act providing a blanket authorisation for whatever action the Commonwealth might need to undertake to support its regional processing policies.

  • After the High Court loss, the #LetThemStay campaign was launched to prevent the Government returning this group to Manus Island and Nauru. During this campaign:

  • The Government backed down on its policy to deport the entire cohort to Nauru, and subsequently moved the vast majority of this group into the community. They have been living in Australia since.

What are their conditions in Australia?
  • About 30 are still in held detention in Australia (in detention centres); some of these have been in detention for over 4 years.

  • The rest have been living in the Australian community, where they have been barred from working. They have, however, received accommodation and a reduced Special Benefit (approx. $200 per fortnight) for food, clothing etc. Children under 18 years of age have been able to go to school.

  • Of those living in the community, there are at least:

    • 100 in Victoria;
    • 60 in NSW;
    • 20 in South Australia;
    • 20 in WA;
    • 60 in Queensland.
  • Those affected have been issued with a new visa (final departure bridging visa E) that gives them six months to arrange return to the countries from which they fled, or one of the offshore centres on Nauru or Manus. Although visa holders will not have any income support, they will have work rights while they remain in Australia. They will also have some medical support and access to a case officer. Although children under 18 years of age can attend school, people over 18 years of age will not be permitted to study.

Why is this happening?

This policy change is unnecessary, cruel and part of the Government’s mandate to never resettle people in Australia. The Government have insisted that no one who arrived by boat after 19 July 2013 will ever be granted residency in Australia.

By removing access to support and rendering people destitute, the Government are attempting to coerce refugees and asylum seekers into leaving Australia and returning to Manus Island, Nauru or the country from which they fled.

The latest policy announcement reflects the Government's broader approach to asylum seekers and refugees in Australia - an approach that demonises those seeking protection, denies them compassion and basic human rights, and promotes community division and hate.