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A recent Dutton push looks to kick asylum seekers off their $35 a day living allowance to push them into the workforce.
The Turnbull government recently began cutting off financial support to a new cohort of people seeking asylum, leading refugee advocacy groups to warn that this cruel policy has the potential to cause a humanitarian crisis on Australian streets.
On 27 June, the Department of Home Affairs began distributing letters advising asylum seekers that their Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) will be cut off in a matter of weeks. The SRSS consists of a basic living allowance of $35 a day, along with counselling services.
In February, home affairs minister Peter Dutton approved the policy, which, in his thinking, is supposed to get asylum seekers with the ability to work into employment. But, as critics have pointed out, pushing people into destitution is no way to support them in entering the workforce.
Up to 7,000 SRSS recipients could be affected by this policy. Single people who’ve already been deemed “work ready” will have their supports taken away by the end of July, while families with young children will begin to have their income removed in August.
Deprived of necessities
“We anticipate a significant spike in homelessness, hunger and poverty amongst people seeking asylum,” said Simon Bruck, senior solicitor at the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS). “We’ve already had people call in panic about SRSS cuts.”
According to Mr Bruck, around 1,500 people seeking asylum will be affected by the first wave. And along with their income, any torture and trauma counselling and assistance with their casework that they’ve been receiving will also be withdrawn.
Service providers were instructed to begin reviewing SRSS recipients for job-readiness in April. Mr Bruck pointed out that there is no tribunal review process to evaluate whether the decisions that have been made were appropriate.
“RACS is worried they are going to cut people off from critical support in an attempt to save money,” Mr Bruck told Sydney Criminal Lawyers. And in the meantime, this will “create a totally unnecessary humanitarian crisis and realistically not save that much money.”
“This is a deliberate action designed to cause great harm,” Asylum Seekers Centre chief executive Frances Rush said in a statement. “Currently no agency, individually or collectively, has the capacity to deal with the sheer number of people who will turn to the community for basic necessities.”
Another asylum seeking hurdle
Mr Bruck also drew attention to another consequence of the SRSS cuts that involves the actual asylum-seeking process. As the immigration status of these people is currently unresolved, they need to submit visa applications and undergo interviews in order to continue with the process.
“Our experience shows that when people are left homeless, they will probably find it much harder to engage in the process and maintain their documents,” Mr Bruck stressed. “We worry their protection visa applications will suffer as a result.”
So, this means that Dutton’s new policy of throwing the current living circumstances of thousands of individuals into disarray also has the effect of making it much harder for them to continue on with the process of seeking protection in this country.