The Solution

This campaign is seeking to address the lack of work rights for asylum seekers. This includes those who have arrived post August 13, 2012 and are subject to the no advantage rule and those who arrived prior to August 13, 2012 who have not been granted work rights.

Any asylum seeker who arrived by boat post August 13, 2012 will not have the right to work, forcing them into a life of poverty and destitution for an unknown period of time.  In 2011_2012 90.8 per cent of boat arrivals were granted permanent protection visas meaning they will be permanent residents in Australia.

The new visas for arrivals by boat post August 13, 2012 prohibit any type of meaningful engagement for asylum seekers in the community with no right to work.  In additional to boat arrivals, there are other asylum seekers in the community who also do not have the right to work.  As history has shown, having asylum seekers live on welfare without any training or skill development for five years deliberately hinders their potential to be able to gain employment when they do achieve permanent residency – and for boat arrivals 90.8% do become permanent residents.

Some asylum seekers who arrived prior to August 13, 2012 who have reached a certain stage within the refugee determination process have had their work rights revoked due to reasons such as a delay in lodging for a Protection Visa.  Some asylum seekers have been denied the right to work for long periods of time, in some cases over two years.  Revoked work rights from asylum seekers can result in people who were working and feeling proud of their contribution to Australian society and ability to support themselves finding themselves in a state of despair and destitution.  This group of asylum seekers only just manage to survive living within the community, mostly through the support of not for profit organisations.

Alison Gerard, Lecturer in Justice Studies at Charles Sturt University, outlines international evidence to show that moving asylum seekers out of detention and into the community without adequate access to rights and entitlements fosters destitution. It also

  • Causes deteriorated mental and physical health amongst asylum seekers.
  • Has the potential to create a supply of illegal labourers, exposing asylum seekers to exploitation and harm in workplaces.
  • Outsources basic government services to already overstretched and under resourced charities, creating a tiered system of welfare.

As asylum seekers released into the community are not able to work many will be reliant on the not for profit sector for additional support.  This will put strain on an already under resourced sector.  The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) has seen a doubling in presentations over the past 12 months and expect this to continue and increase as people are released without work rights.

Aside from the significant challenge of survival, the denial of the right to work has a negative impact on individuals’ mental health and ability to establish independence and connectedness within the Australian community.  As a consequence this can lead to a complex and difficult integration process into Australian society if or when the final refugee determination outcome results in the grant of a permanent visa to live in Australia.  90.8% of boat arrivals are granted a permanent visa to live in Australia.

The solution is simple, we are calling for

  • An undertaking from the Minister for Immigration to make a policy change extending the right to work to all asylum seekers released into the community on bridging visas, regardless of mode or date of arrival or stage in the refugee determination process.
  • The right to work is accompanied by the provision of basic employment support services to increase the asylum seekers chance of employment.