The first study of asylum seekers living in the community on bridging visas has revealed extreme emotional and financial distress among participants.
By
Adeshola Ore

Source:
World News Australia
4 Mar 2014 - 8:00 PM  UPDATED 5 Mar 2014 - 5:53 PM

(Click on audio tab above to hear interview)

Faced with overcrowded detention centres, the previous Labor government announced that asylum seekers arriving by boat after August 2012 would be released into the community on bridging visas.

Under the policy, continued by the Coalition government, they would be given minimal welfare payments, and would have no work rights.

Well over 20,000 asylum seekers have now been living for months on the bridging visas, unable to get jobs, and not knowing when their asylum claims may be finalised.

Caroline Fleay from the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University in Perth said that being without work for a long term can impact negatively on asylum seekers mental health.

"This situation is not going to change unless policy changes, the first thing that should change is that people should have the right to work," she said.

"At least they have the capacity to do something with their time as well as to be able to financially support themselves and also possibly their families."

"It’s one of the things about the right to work, is that it’s so important for someone’s own mental wellbeing, how we view ourselves and a sense of agency, being able to get on in some way with our lives."

The Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University in Perth has released the results of what it describes as the first study of these asylum seekers, based on interviews with some of them in several parts of Australia.

Ms. Fleay told Adeshola Ore they're experiencing extreme emotional and financial distress.

"We interviewed one man who was from Sri Lanka and is now living in Sydney. Satien, we don’t use anyone’s real name, but Satien said in my country they truly actually torture people, kidnap and beat them up but here in Australia they torture people mentally through the brain."