Victoria is the latest Australian state to launch a support package for temporary migrants in Australia who face poverty due to Covid-19, but does not include federal assistance.
In the absence of federal intervention, Tasmania, South Australia, ACT, Queensland and Victoria have all announced support schemes to assist temporary visa holders, including international students, asylum seekers and working visa holders.
Victoria this week announced aid payments of up to $ 1,100 as part of a broader emergency assistance package, available to tens of thousands of international students living in the state.
“International students are an important part of our education system, our economy and our community, “said the minister for employment, innovation and trade, Martin Pakula.
In Tasmania, any temporary visa holder can apply for help under a $ 3 million support package announced by the prime minister, Peter Gutwein.
Visa holders who are experiencing financial difficulties are entitled to $ 250, while families can request $ 1,000 for assistance.
The ACT Government has launched a cash assistance package for international students, asylum seekers and refugees.
“For the past month we have been advocating to the federal government for people on temporary visas to be covered by job guards and stay connected to work. The Australian Government has refused, and as a result many Canberrans on temporary visas are now losing their jobs and now have absolutely no income, and no support, “said minister for multicultural affairs, Chris Steel.
The South Australia $ 13.8 million aid package offers emergency cash assistance to students, and other assistance paid through state universities.
Each university across the country has also committed tens of millions in direct financial support to stranded students.
Dozens of community organizations, religious groups and diaspora bodies also offer food, housing and basic services.
The Australian Homestay Network has reported that more than 300 families have registered in the last two weeks to host international students after an outgoing call. Its founder, David Bycroft, said Australians have a responsibility to improve and care for those who leave without assistance during a pandemic.
“The prime minister has told international students to go home if they are unable to support themselves but in reality the situation is not that simple,” Bycroft said. “For many students, going home is not an option.”
In Australia’s largest state, NSW Domestic Violence says that state governments need to provide safety nets for women and children living on temporary visas.
“Too many women on temporary visas risk being injured and killed by cruel partners because their only other options are poverty and homelessness,” said the group’s spokesman, Renata Field.
“DVNSW calls on the NSW government to immediately provide income, housing and health care support for women and children on temporary visas who experience domestic and family violence.”
Jane Brock, executive officer of the Immigrant Women’s Talk Association, said her organization was very concerned about women on temporary visas who were experiencing violence and their children struggling to access food and basic necessities.
There is a continuing call for the federal government to help more than one million people currently in Australia – including international student, working holiday makers, skilled temporary migrants, asylum seekers and refugees – exempt from payment of support jobs and federal government job seekers Covid-19.
Overly represented in industries that are disproportionately affected by the closure of the corona virus, such as hospitality and retail, and without family connections to switch to or community support networks, thousands of people face poverty: many report not eating and worry they will lose their homes.
The federal treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, believes the government “must draw a line somewhere”, saying that including temporary migrants would add an additional $ 18bn to more than $ 200bn in direct aid payments already made.
In parliament, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said: “Australia must focus on its citizens and residents to ensure that we can maximize the economic support we have.”
He said temporary visa holders had to leave the country.
“It’s better to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this, if you are a visitor in this country, this is the time … to go home.”
For many people this is not possible – some countries have closed their borders, even for returning citizens, for others there are no flights, or no affordable flights, or transit countries will not allow it to pass. Others have lived in Australia for years, and have built families and communities, built fake homes and careers.
For asylum seekers and refugees, after fleeing persecution in their homeland, any return is impossible.
More than 40 Catholic leaders wrote to the prime minister earlier this month, requesting expansion of federal assistance.
Father Peter Smith of the Sydney Archdiocese believes that those who do not receive government assistance payments are members of the Australian community.
“They pray on our church benches, work in our restaurants, agriculture, factories, nursing homes, supermarkets and NGOs, study in our schools and universities, and live in our neighborhood. And we have left them to their destiny.
“We need to look to Singapore to see what can happen when a rich and sophisticated country only cares about its own citizens and tries to ignore everything in their country. This virus does not recognize passport status; it destroys everyone equally. “
The Director of the Migrant Workers Center, Matt Kunkel, said the state government does not have to offer crisis payments when the federal government has the power to extend ongoing support to all workers.
“As we head for another month of this crisis, there are still hundreds of thousands of temporary visa workers who do not have the support, and every day bring them closer to starvation and losing a roof over their heads. Many have fallen through gaps and faced extreme financial difficulties, “Kunkel said.
“We need a cohesive response from the Morrison government that includes everyone.”
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