A refugee and asylum-seeker charity in Sydney’s west has reported a six-fold surge in calls for help as the coronavirus pandemic bites deep into the lives of those most vulnerable. Source: Catholic Outlook.
Many refugees and asylum-seekers on bridging visas, hoping to establish new lives in Australia, typically work as casuals in the industries hardest hit by the sharp economic downturn, including retail, hospitality, packaging and factories.
They now have unemployment and possible homelessness to add to their long list of worries.
The House Of Welcome at Granville is calling for extra help from the public as it finds its resources stretched to the limit.
The charity has received as many calls for help in the past two weeks as it did in the entire first quarter last year.
“There has been a massive escalation in self-referrals,” said Miriam Pellicano, executive manager of the front line facility run by the Catholic group St Francis Social Services.
“We are receiving 40-60 calls a day, about half of them from people who have lost their jobs – 53 in the past fortnight.”
The plight of people on bridging visas, she explained, was heightened by the fact that they could not access Medicare benefits, or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, or government financial safety nets including the COVID-19-inspired supplement through Centrelink.
“They are being hit disproportionately compared with the rest of the population,” she said. Meanwhile, a petition from Australian Catholic organisations calls has been launched, calling on the federal and state governments to “extend a vital safety net” to everyone in need within the Australian community, “regardless of their visa status” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition follows a private letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison organised by Sydney Archdiocese’s Justice and Peace Office, Parramatta Diocese and the Jesuit Refugee Service which was signed by 44 Catholic leaders, including four bishops, more than 10 congregational leaders, and chief executives of key national Catholic health and social services.
SOS call for refugees hit by job losses (Catholic Outlook)
Catholics for Refugees petition (Change.org)