As people on temporary visas across the country face hunger and destitution, new polling commissioned by GetUp has found overwhelming multi-partisan support for letting people on temporary visas access Covid-19 support payments that have kept so many Australians afloat.
59% of respondents in our Essential Media poll agreed that "the Australian Government should extend support to people who live in Australia who are struggling to make ends meet due to Covid-19, regardless of what visa they hold". Just 15% of respondents disagreed.
That consensus extended across party lines. 64% of Labor voters and 58% of Coalition voters want the government to give a helping hand to people on temporary visas who are struggling to get through lockdown.
The strong public desire to help people on temporary visas is in line with a new report from Australian Red Cross. In the report, Red Cross found that thousands of people on temporary visas have been stretched to breaking point, and recommended that federal and state governments, businesses and civil society work together to ensure people on temporary visas can meet their humanitarian needs during this crisis.
GetUp Racial Justice Lead Anisha Seranatne said:
"The community has spoken. People of all political stripes want the federal government to take action and provide ongoing support to the 2 million people on temporary visas that have been excluded through the pandemic. These are our neighbours, colleagues, friends and integral parts of our community – and they’re facing a humanitarian crisis that will only escalate without government action. The government must act now, before any more lives are destroyed."
Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said:
"We have seen record numbers of people forced into crisis services, unable to put a roof over their head or food on the table. People have paid taxes and contributed to their communities, yet have been abandoned during the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression."
Tu Le, Program Director at Migrant Employment Legal Service, said:
"MELS has seen how badly people on temporary visas are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are falling into homelessness and destitution with no income and no social security net. The federal government needs to support these people who’ve been working and contributing to our economy and community, regardless of their visa status."
Jimena Sanchez is an international student from Bolivia. She was living in Brisbane with her husband and two children when COVID hit.
Jimena's husband has been supporting the family by working as an Uber driver. When the kids' second semester started, they couldn't afford their school fees. Jimena couldn't afford her uni fees, and had to suspend her studies to try and get the money together.
"We never imagined we would go through such a difficult situation - fearing that the kids will not be able to go to school, or worrying sick about not having the money to pay for my next semester and losing my student visa," Jimena says.
"Honestly, sometimes we do not know how we will cover all our expenses and we fall into despair. We try to handle the situations that we have to face as well as possible. Our only hope is for everything to get better soon."
Media contact: Alex McKinnon 0411 829 334
Spokespeople available for interview
- Jimena Sanchez - contact details available on request
- Anisha Senaratne, Racial Justice Lead at GetUp
- Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
- Tu Le, Migrant Employment Legal Service