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Some migrant workers who received JobKeeper told to repay it

Hassan now works for the Migrant Workers Centre helping others fight repayment notices Source: SBS

The government payments were set up with great urgency and allowed workers to self-assess their eligibility, only now discovering they were wrongly paid. SBS News has seen debt notices of up to $20,000 dollars.

Mr Jaber applied for the wage subsidy and was accepted, despite being on a Temporary Protection Visa and falling outside the eligibility criteria.

After almost a year of receiving support  he got a debt letter asking for it all back.

"To be honest with you I was very shocked. Because this is not tickets like $50 or $100, you can deal with it. This is 27,000 to 27,900. I was shocked. I was stressed out, especially when we have the COVID-19 lockdown . I didn't know what I am going to do."

The tax office eventually agreed to waive the repayments.

And the minister in charge, Employment Minister Stuart Robert,  says errors can be rectified.

"In areas where the ATO has been at fault on issues of payment or indeed Services Australia which I used to be the minister for,  where the department has made a mistake,  then the department generally waives these but of course every circumstance is different. But it's important to clarify the difference between not understanding the law and the department making an error."

But according to Wallace Huang, an industrial officer at the Migrant Workers Centre, the emotional damage has often already been done. Wallace Huang says dozens are in the same situation. The centre has helped wipe around 130 thousand dollars of JobKeeper debt.

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