Vinnies blasts ‘cruel’ cut in benefits to asylum seekers on medical treatment (summary)
By Helen Davidson – The Guardian – 19 May 2018
Chief executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Dr John Falzon says the move is part of a pattern to outsource government responsibility to charities and community groups
The federal government’s decision to strip income support and housing from asylum seekers transferred to Australia for medical treatment “beggars belief as an unprincipled act of cruelty”, the head of one of Australia’s largest charities has said.
Most of those targeted this week were families with young children, who were given six weeks to find new accommodation and a source of income.
Others were given three weeks to find accommodation but lost income support immediately.
“Obviously this is going to hurt individuals very profoundly,” Falzon said.
“Already the payment level was clearly inadequate when you consider it’s less than the inadequate Newstart level, so people were struggling, facing a daily battle for survival from below the poverty line.
“To pick on this group of people and use discretionary powers by the minister to take away the little that they were entitled to just absolutely beggars belief as an unprincipled act of cruelty towards people who already bear an enormous burden of inequality.”
The Department of Home Affairs confirmed it was ending financial assistance to “transitory persons” who had not returned to Nauru or Papua New Guinea after coming to Australia for medical treatment.
“With the exception of the most vulnerable or those who represent a security concern, transitory persons will be granted a final departure bridging E visa which requires that they must support themselves until they depart Australia,” a spokesman said.
“Individuals are expected to have departed by the time their final departure BVE expires, which is six months from its grant date.”
The spokesman said accommodation and living expenses for the affected people had been $120,000 each, every year.
In recent years, the cost of holding someone in offshore detention has been estimated at more than $500,000 a year.
“Purposefully making these people destitute and homeless can only exacerbate the health conditions for which they were originally transferred to Australia,” [Labor spokesman for immigration, Shayne Neumann] told Guardian Australia.
A spokeswoman for the UN high commission for refugees in Australia said the government’s move would leave refugees and asylum seekers “at serious risk of destitution”.
“Any removal of such basic and fundamental support could wrongly coerce the most vulnerable to return to Papua New Guinea, Nauru, or their countries of origin.”
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