Denying asylum seekers basic income support has pushed an already vulnerable group into deeper hardship. The case studies that follow give an insight into how the changes to SRSS have affected the lives of vulnerable people living in Australia (note some details have been changed to protect identities).
Case Study A
W is a 30-year-old Iranian man who escaped government persecution and came to Australia to seek protection. W received SRSS payments as he had a number of serious health concerns that prevented him from working, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), epilepsy and diabetes. When W received a negative decision and was told the only option was to appeal to the Courts, his SRSS payments were cut off. He was unable to pay for rent and was at risk of being evicted. Worse, he could not afford his medications and went for weeks at a time without insulin until he could borrow from friends. W was referred to the Vinnies Asylum Seeker Program in NSW, where financial assistance helped him to pay his rental arrears and stay in his accommodation. Even with this support, W remains very ill due to the stress of his visa conditions and the lack of options and support in Sydney.
Case Study B
X arrived by boat from Iran as a teenager and is seeking asylum. She currently holds a Bridging Visa but has applied for a SHEV (Safe Haven Enterprise Visa). She has managed to win a scholarship to study at a major university. The scholarship is for three years and provides her with an annual stipend of $2,500. She is expected to use this money in part to pay an administration fee of $500 and pay for books and any other items required for her course. Since being granted the scholarship, she has been informed that her SRSS benefit will no longer be paid. She is looking for part-time work but has not managed to find any yet.
Case Study C
Y and Z and their four children are Tamils seeking asylum who originally came from Sri Lanka. They escaped the civil war in that country by travelling to India, where they were told that they must return to Sri Lanka. Knowing that this was not an option, due to fears for their safety and ongoing persecution of Tamil people, they came to Australia by boat to seek asylum. They spent time in detention before being released into the community. Their application for a SHEV has been refused, despite clear evidence that people of Tamil background continue to be persecuted in Sri Lanka, especially those who have returned after seeking asylum elsewhere. The SRSS payments to the family of six were cut the moment the initial decision to refuse their application for a SHEV was made. They are appealing the decision – something that is very costly – and currently have no income whatsoever.