• Erika Rao

Impact of COVID-19 on People Seeking Asylum and Refugees on Temporary Visas

The effects of COVID-19 knows no borders and has been felt throughout the world. While the rest of Australia might be using the ease in lockdown measures to go sunbathing in Bondi, there are some marginalised communities that will continue to face the lasting effects of COVID-19 for the next few years. 

Early this year, the Australian government announced the JobKeeper policy as a way to provide support for Australians that have lost their jobs during the peak of the pandemic. JobSeeker would include $130 billion savings, with a flat payment of $1,500 every fortnight. However, the refugee and asylum seeking community have been left out of this privilege. On top of that, most of them can’t adequately socially distance and despite that, they can’t access Medicare even if they do fall sick. 

Currently, there are 8,400 people on a Temporary Bridging Visa (TPV) while there are 16,000 people on a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV), most of which will never be granted a permanent protection Visa simply because they entered the country by boat. With these Visas, they are required to reapply every 3 to 5 years to prove that they are still in need of protection. Not only is the reapplying process often stressful and long, it also means that they are excluded from any support provided to regular citizens, namely the JobKeeper policy.

"...most of them can’t adequately socially distance and despite that, they can’t access Medicare even if they do fall sick."

Across the Australian Community, COVID-19 has meant loss of a stable financial income. For the refugee and asylum seeking community, this impact has been felt tenfold, with a vast majority of them working in the labour industry. Most of them were already living day-to-day prior to the pandemic, and while the NSW government did announce a $6 million package for Not-For-Profit organisations to provide them with their basic necessities, it is not nearly enough for 6000 (approx.) refugees in NSW to cover their rent, medical bills, groceries and transport. Additionally, SHEV recipients are required to hold a job in the regional area, and so if they lose their job, or are unable to cross the border to access their workplace, they face the risk of having their Visa revoked. 

On the other hand, for those who have not been released on temporary Visa, there are also many that are still in immigration detention centres. Suffice to say, they have little to no space to socially distance themselves. In fact, the Australian Department of Health has flagged these facilities as danger zones - we’ve seen examples of an outbreak in enclosed areas like this in countries such as Singapore. 

Read more here. 

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Written by: Erika Rao (Hub volunteer)

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