States step up funding for asylum seekers after federal cuts hit people on bridging visas

Asylum seeker support services are hoping other state governments will follow Victoria's lead and allocate extra funding for people on temporary visas hit by cuts to federal government support payments.

Rally for refugees

Protesters show their support for refugees. Source: AAP

Asylum seeker support services have welcomed a $3 million funding commitment from the Victorian government for people on bridging visas who have been cut off from federal government payments.

Thousands of asylum seekers who arrived by boat before 2014 lost access to federal income support payments after the government tightened eligibility requirements in 2017.

Community services say the dismantling of the status resolution support service program - worth about $35 a day - has pushed asylum seekers into poverty and increased demand for their help.  


Jesuit Refugee Service in New South Wales is spending $16,800 a month to provide asylum seekers with food, clothing, rental payments and medications. 

JRS Australia director Carolina Gottardo hoped other states, including NSW, would follow the Victorian government's decision to provide "life-saving" support to the vulnerable group. 

"There are thousands of people seeking asylum in other states, including NSW, who are facing abject poverty, sleeping rough or insecure housing, and struggling with serious mental and physical health issues without adequate support," she said.

"These include single mothers and those who have experienced domestic/family violence."

Victoria joins Queensland and the ACT in providing support to make up for the cuts and community services hope other states follow suit. 

More than 8,000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat before 2014 are living on bridging visas while they wait for their claim to be finalised. 

The group that has become known as the "legacy caseload" arrived before the government changed its policy to prevent anyone who arrived by boat from settling in Australia. 

Asylum Seekers Centre CEO Frances Rush said the Victorian Government's decision was a "humane response to a very real crisis".

Asylum seekers arriving by boat
Of the more than 50,000 people who arrived by boat before 2014, 30,000 remain on temporary visas in Australia. Source: AAP

"We have seen a substantial increase in the need for crisis support to meet basic requirements for housing, food and health," Ms Rush said. 

"The majority of people seeking asylum are keen to work and provide for their families while in Australia. But the reality is that many are vulnerable and need support to establish themselves, find accommodation, get healthy and feed their families."

In July, the Human Rights Commission recommended the 2017 eligibility changes for income support be reversed to reduce the risk of homelessness and poverty. 

While the government granted those on bridging visas in the legacy caseload the right to work at the same time, many have struggled to find jobs. 

3 min read
Published 9 September 2019 at 3:41pm
By Rosemary Bolger
Source: SBS News