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No right to work – a look inside the lives of asylum seekers

Media release

Asylum seekers living in Australian communities without the right to work are battling distress and fear, a new study from Curtin University’s Centre for Human Rights Education has found.

Report co-author Dr Caroline Fleay said the study highlighted the emotional impact of not being able to work and the ongoing uncertainty felt by asylum seekers who are yet to have their refugee claims processed.

“By not being able to seek employment, we’ve found that these asylum seekers are experiencing emotional stress and financial hardships. This is made worse given the ongoing delays in the processing of their refugee claims, and we recommend that this policy must be changed,” Dr Fleay said.

“The no work rights policy was introduced by the previous Labor Government for all asylum seekers who arrived after 13 August 2012 by boat and were released from detention on bridging visas.

“The Labor Government announced that such arrivals would not be allowed the right to work while their refugee claims were being assessed.  They are also only entitled to receive minimal services and financial support, just $223 per week for a single person.  This policy continues under the current Coalition Government.

“This policy affects more than 20,000 asylum seekers in Australia who continue to live well-below the poverty line in a situation of forced unemployment and uncertainty.”

The research, conducted by Dr Lisa Hartley and Dr Fleay is based upon extensive interviews with 29 asylum seekers in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne. All of those interviewed arrived by boat after 13 August 2012, the date when the no work rights policy commenced.

The full report, Policy as Punishment: Asylum Seekers Living in the Community without the Right to Work, can be found online at the Australian Policy Online website.