Arja Keski-Nummi and I have described the services and lack of them for the 12,000 asylum seekers living in the community as ‘Kafkaesque’. The policies and rules concerning these asylum seekers have no sense or logic.
- Some are living in the community on bridging visas with work rights and some without work rights.
- Boat arrivals between October 2012 and August 2013 and released into the community have work rights but boat arrivals after August 2013 have no work rights.
- Some have access to Medicare, but many don’t.
- Some are in detention because they came by boat, while those who come by air, the much larger number, live in the community from the beginning.
- Some cases for refugee status are being processed, but under the ‘no advantage’ rule those who came by boat after August 2012 have no processing of their claims.
- Those who came by air, continue to be processed.
- Some have access to the Assistance for Asylum Seekers in Australia scheme (mainly financial) and the Community Assistance Support Program (for people with complex needs). Many don’t have access to either ASAS or CAS.
It is a mess. The above are only examples and could be added to.
We need an urgent review of support services for asylum seekers living in the community. An important first step while the review is being undertaken is to grant work rights.
A good model for the review is the Galbally Review which reported to the Fraser Government in May 1978 on the services needed to support migrants and refugees in the community. That report highlighted the important principles that should underlie multiculturalism but it also proposed a range of programs to assist migrants and refugees in their settlement in Australia. High on the list was English language learning, the telephone interpreter service, employment advice and assistance for women in the home.
That report laid the basis for the very successful settlement services that endure to this day. We need to build on what we have achieved and support asylum seekers both equitably and efficiently in settlement in Australia even while their claims are being processed. We know from experience how we can do this. But we need new programs that fit the needs of today.
The present confusion of programs is a mess. We need a mini-Galbally quite urgently.
It offends almost every principle of equity, efficiency and good administrative practices for the present Kafkaesque type arrangements to continue for another day.