Jul 1st 2020

Migrant worker humanitarian crisis sits with Morrison government

Migrant and refugee rights groups have joined forces with unions, lawyers and religious organisations to demand urgent government intervention in the growing humanitarian crisis among international students, migrant workers and people seeking asylum in Australia.

An open letter released today from 18 organisations{: target="_blank"} and community groups calls on the government to urgently extend  income support to all people in Australia, regardless of their visa status, responding directly to a damning new report on migrant worker exploitation{: target="_blank"}. 

By failing to offer any support, this government is responsible for creating untenable circumstances where people are forced into exploitative working conditions just to get by.

Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO at Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said:

"The ASRC, like many service organisations, has seen triple the number of people presenting for emergency relief for food, rent assistance, medicines and mental health support as people lose their jobs without a safety net.

Anisha Senaratne, Senior Organiser at Colour Code said:“Our communities, who have committed to building lives here, are facing a frighteningly deteriorating situation. But instead of opening up lifelines that have helped so many through this crisis, the Government has blocked them every step of the way.

Neha Madhok, National Co-Director at Democracy in Colour said:

“We are all experiencing the social and economic shocks of this pandemic, but it is those on temporary visas, including people seeking asylum, who have been left without access to employment and health care, and are living in fear because they have experienced racial attacks.

Renaire Druery, GetUp’s Human Rights Campaign Director, said:

“Responsibility for this crisis sits squarely with the Morrison government who, even after finding an extra $60 billion in their pocket, have made the heartless decision to leave people on temporary visas without vital income support.

Sharmilla Bargon, Steering Committee Member of the Migrant Employment Legal Service and Employment Lawyer at Redfern Legal Centre, said:

"The Migrant Employment Legal Service has provided advice to hundreds of migrant workers and international students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are concerned for our clients and call on the federal Government to extend financial welfare support to those on temporary work visas to avoid leaving these critical members of our workforce behind.

Matt Kunkel, Director of the Migrant Workers Centre said:

“As we face a dangerous second wave of this pandemic, temporary migrants and international students are already in an impossible situation. With many having no income for more than three months now – what does the Federal Government expect them to do?

Mary Waterford AM, Chair Sydney Alliance said:

“We are all in this together. No matter your visa status. We already see thousands of Sydneysiders caring for their family members, neighbours and communities. Stability of income support is good for the economy and good for the community. We must address this situation.”

Mark Morey, Secretary of Unions NSW said:

“Australia needs to get serious about how it treats international students. We gouge them for higher education fees and taxes, all while we know they are being horrendously exploited. Then when a crisis like COVID hits, we exclude them from income support, allowing thousands of them to go hungry.”

Full open letter from 18 organisations is here: http://www.getup.org.au/nobodyleftbehind-open-letter{: target="_blank"}