With empty hands: how the Australian government is forcing people seeking asylum to destitution

Refugees Forced migration Welfare recipients Welfare state Asylum seekers Offshore detention Australia
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The report tells the story of people like Rajan, who came seeking safety and found himself living in the shadows. They have lived for years in our detention centres, and then lived in our community without the right to work or study. Once they had the right to work, they struggled to find work with their short-term visas and their English skills. They struggled to renew their visas and their Medicare cards, meaning there were times when they could not look for a job or get the healthcare they needed. For years, they were denied the right to apply for asylum and then, once they got it, they found they couldn’t get any legal help.

Now, they are still waiting for a decision years and struggling to get through every day. For many, their lifeline is a support program that provides 89% of a Newstart allowance, or around $35 a day. Yet this too is now being taken away from them, with an estimated 7,000 likely to lose all income in the next few months because of yet more punitive policy changes. People will lose their homes, have to stop taking vital medication, go hungry so their children can eat, and end up in work where they are exploited.

This is the first report to explain the bewildering and ever-changing policies that have led us here. It reflects the voices of people seeking asylum and those who work with them, gathered through our national annual consultations in 2016 and 2017.

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