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Catholic groups struggle to help refugees released into Brisbane community

Needy: The refugees and asylum seekers, including families with children, were released from community detention on bridging visas.

CHURCH groups in Brisbane are scrambling to support more than 100 refugees and asylum seekers released into the community in recent weeks.

The refugees and asylum seekers, including families with children, were released from community detention on bridging visas.

Rebecca Lim, a Catholic refugee advocate, said these people had been living in community detention around Brisbane in houses leased by the Federal Government.

“They had case workers, (the Government) gave them very limited income support, and they had a curfew,” Ms Lim said.

Now they have to fend for themselves in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic.

They have Medicare cover and rights to work.

“People over 18 cannot study or do any training, they have no housing, they have no case-work support and they have no income support,” Ms Lim said.

“So the situation is, the community and individuals, we’re doing our best to help people find a house, provide some income support, find jobs.

“Many (of them) are unable to do physical labouring jobs because of their unmet health needs, and for all their detention on-shore and off-shore … They’ve come from Nauru and Papua New Guinea.”

Ms Lim said the people released from community detention had no rental history and no employment history because they had been detained off-shore and within the community without work rights.

“So suddenly they have to find a house when they have no rental history; they have to find a job when they have no employment history; and they have no training – they can’t do any training on this kind of departure bridging visa,” she said.

The Federal Government released them from community detention on  final departure Bridging E Visas.

That applies for people who “have come to Australia for medical treatment from a regional processing country and have not returned”.

A Home Affairs Department spokesperson said the visa allowed individuals to live temporarily in the community “while they finalise their arrangements to leave Australia”.

“The Government’s policy is clear – no one who attempts illegal maritime travel to Australia will be permanently settled here,” the spokesperson said.

Ms Lim said some of the people released from community detention were “unemployable in the foreseeable future because they have become so sick because of the indefinite, prolonged detention, and then inadequate health care off-shore”.

“And where are the jobs (for the others)? They’ve got full working rights but where are the jobs?” she said.

St Vincent de Paul Society Queensland is providing emergency relief in the form of vouchers for food, petrol and household items to assist the people released from community detention.

“Those affected by the recent changes are being referred through our free call 1800 VINNIES (1800 846 643 menu option 1) and connected to our trained and experienced virtual assessment team,” a Vinnies spokesperson said.

“Social visits are also being co-ordinated from local Vincentians to further assist individuals and families where needed.”

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