New crackdown on asylum seeker support – September 2017

Filed under: Politics, Australian Politics, Social and Community, Immigration,

The federal Government is withdrawing welfare support from some asylum seekers who were brought to Australia for medical treatment.

The changes are estimated to affect about 100 Australian-based asylum seekers.

They include cutting more than $200 a fortnight in income support. Those affected will also have three weeks to move out of government-supported accommodation.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the asylum seekers in question were expected to return to Nauru or Manus once their medical treatment was completed. “They were brought here temporarily, but refuse to return and take out court injunctions to prevent their removal,” he said.

“Those whose treatment has been completed will be told the Government, the taxpayer, will no longer provide financial assistance.” The spokesman said the number of people impacted was “less than 100” and they would be dealt with “on a case by case basis”.

Australia's Christian churches said they will offer sanctuary to the asylum seekers caught up in a Government welfare crackdown affecting those who were originally transported to Australia for medical treatment. Describing the tough stance as “cruel and heartless”, chair of the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Very Reverend Peter Catt, said religious leaders would not stand by and allow the asylum seekers to become destitute.

“Or cause them to live in terror of being returned to harm on Nauru or Manus Island,” he said. “Among them are pregnant women and women who had suffered sexual assault on Nauru.”

Reverend Catt said nine denominations had agreed to open their door across the country if the refugees lost their legal status. “Today we are announcing a number of aid agencies have combined together and are launching a campaign that will see these people supported in the community.

“The sanctuary offer would kick in if the Government sought to remove their legal status or to round them up and to take them back to Nauru and Manus by force.”

In February 2016, churches across Australia also united in support of refugees as they faced removal back to offshore detention centres.

Reverend Catt said it precipitated a huge outpouring of public support and he believed it would again.

The Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce was established to promote a shared Christian vision of compassion and hospitality for asylum seekers and refugees. Its members include Baptists, Lutherans, Quakers, Anglicans and the Uniting and Catholic churches.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the crackdown was in line with the Government's stance on immigration. “We've got a very firm principle that anybody who arrives by boat will not be granted access and permanent residency in Australia” he said.

“They came to Australia for a reason, that reason has now been accomplished and now they need to return.”

There are almost 400 asylum seekers currently in Australia on temporary visas on either medical or compassionate grounds.

Those initially affected by the changes will be moved onto what will be known as a “final departure Bridging E Visa”.

Labor's immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann accused the Government of targeting the “most vulnerable”.

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