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A lone person sleeping on the streets amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney, Australia A lone person sleeping on the streets amid the Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney, Australia 

Australia: New survey highlights plight of asylum seekers amid pandemic

Asylum seekers in Australia are undergoing rough times as they face high levels of homelessness and financial hardship amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. A survey by Jesuit Refugee Services and Western Sydney University’s Translational Health Research Institute (THRI) highlights the need for ongoing income support for them as they try to find suitable employment.

By Vatican News staff writer

A recent survey carried out by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia and Western Sydney University’s Translational Health Research Institute (THRI) has drawn attention to the difficult situation of people seeking asylum amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many of them, face “considerable financial hardship and high levels of homelessness during the first twelve months of the pandemic," said a statement from JRS. 

Of the over one hundred respondents seeking asylum and living in predominantly West and Southwest Sydney,” 55% of respondents had experienced some form of homelessness since arriving in Australia, 9% of respondents had slept rough, in a car, or in another improvised dwelling, and 14% had stayed in emergency accommodation.”

Asylum seekers are hard-hit

In 2020, the Australian government declared a moratorium on evictions, however, 29% of the respondents said they had been evicted or moved from their accommodations because of their inability to pay rent. This was largely because many asylum seekers are employed in cash-in-hand jobs and thus, find it different for them to demonstrate loss of employment to landlords.

Dr. Elizabeth Conroy, Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University and co-author, said that these findings “highlight how much more prevalent experiences of homelessness are for people seeking asylum relative to the mainstream population” and provide “potential new insights into the hidden homelessness and destitution” which deserves further consideration in public policy.

The data from the survey also provides insights into how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the financial circumstances and housing stability of people seeking asylum: 36% of them reported having difficulty in paying rent and 34% in paying electricity and gas bills in the preceding 12 months. More so, 45% said they had run out of food in the previous three months.

Need for ongoing income support

Nishadh Rego, Policy and Advocacy Manager at JRS Australia, said, “these findings show that significant numbers of people seeking asylum in Western Sydney were living in situations of poverty and homelessness even before this latest lockdown began. Our experience shows that struggles to put food on the table, pay rent, and buy medication have intensified in the last month.”

“Lockdown or not,” he continued, “there is an urgent need for the Federal Government to provide all people seeking safety in Australia with access to ongoing income support if they are unable to find safe and sustainable employment.”

09 August 2021, 14:02