THE St Vincent de Paul Society is calling on the Federal Government to release refugees still in detention in Australia.
It has made the call while welcoming the Government’s recent decision to release 58 refugees, previously transferred to Australia for medical treatment.
Others are still being detained in a Brisbane hotel and elsewhere in Australia.
The St Vincent de Paul Society’s national president Claire Victory said these refugees had become pawns in a battle of political ideology in Australia, even though most had been confirmed as refugees by the governments of Nauru and Papua New Guinea prior to their medical transfer to Australia under the repealed Medevac laws.
“We call on the Morrison Government to release around 200 people who are still detained across Australia after their arrival for medical treatment,” Ms Victory said.
“The impact of almost eight years’ detention, and the uncertainty of indefinite detention on the men’s mental health has been well documented.
“The men have been released on bridging visas, which leaves them vulnerable and largely unsupported in the community.
“We call on the Australian Border Force to brief not-for-profit organisations, such as the (St Vincent de Paul Society), who will be providing support to those being released into the community.
“The Australian Government should be working with not-for-profit organisations to ensure that these people have access to a financial safety net and are not left destitute.
“These people have been detained for so long – it is unreasonable to expect them to find a place to live, get a job and secure an income overnight.”
Ms Victory said the release of refugees “on a short-term visa which provides no path to safe and permanent resettlement is not good enough”.
“The Morrison Government must now release its plan for a permanent resettlement solution for all these people.”
Refugee advocate Rebecca Lim, who is also a Queensland member of St Vincent de Paul Society’s national Vincentian Refugee Network, has been supporting refugees in detention at Kangaroo Point in Brisbane.
She supported Ms Victory’s statement about the release of refugees into the community without support.
“It’s a bad prospect to release people without an employment record or a housing record into the community to support themselves,” Ms Lim said.
“These people need income support.
“If they have income support we can provide everything else they need.
“Responsibility cannot be shifted back to the community groups when the Government is responsible for the damage caused to these people.”
In its 2021 Federal Budget submission, the St Vincent de Paul Society has called on the Federal Government to:
• Extend the Special Benefit Payment to up to 515 people who have been or are likely to be moved from community detention to final departure bridging visas.
• Make Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) payments based on need, such as for those awaiting assessments or a review of their claims for protection, including claims before the courts.
• Discontinue denial of SRSS payments to persons because they are studying or otherwise deemed eligible to work.
• Reinstate the 2014 eligibility criteria and fund the SRSS program at levels that existed prior to the 85 per cent cut in funding since 2017-18.
• Extend JobSeeker to people on bridging visas currently ineligible for income support
• Remove penalties for Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders accessing Special Benefit in light of the pandemic and remove restrictions on accessing Special Benefit for Temporary Protection Visa or SHEV holders who are studying.