Friday, November 13, 2015

How To Live Like An Asylum Seeker In The Australian Community

I see so many people cry that people seeking asylum in Australia get all the benefits! They get free housing! They get everything!

Well, that's utter bullshit.

Try this.

You have to flee your country, because there has been a threat to your life. Maybe your brother went missing last week, and there is no news about where he is, or if he is still alive.

There are phone calls to your family; there are scary, anxious moments when you go out to the market. This has been going on for months and months, but is escalating. You haven't been able to go out of the house for work for months.

You are scared. Really scared. Your life is in serious danger. So you decide to flee.

Maybe just you, and your family scrape together all the money they can, and what they can borrow, to send you. In the hope that you will be safe, and you may one day help them get to safety too.

So you find a way to pay for a passage to Australia - the "Lucky Country". A country where you will be safe, and free, and you can start a new life, get a job and start helping your family back home.

You need to go through so many steps to get to Indonesia, so many scary moments, before you are actually placed on that rickety boat in the middle of the night, with a heap of other people who have done very much the same as you to get there.

Since July 19 2013, it has been a randomised lotto about whether you were quickly sent to Nauru or Manus Island, or whether you remained on Christmas Island. And if indeed you were allocated to stay back, even when people from the boat you came on went sent offshore, you would now be living in the Australian community.

Our Minister of Immigration, and his Opposition, try to pretend this did not happen. But you will find anyone here in our community who arrived on the very same boats as those held without hope. So goes the many lies of this political football in our country.

Once you get out of detention, which could be months after you arrive, could be years - no rhyme or reason again about why there is a difference, you will either live with someone you already know here in Australia (a community link), or you will first be placed in a hotel for up to 6 weeks. Now, you must figure out how to live in Australia.

A totally foreign place, with more rules and regulations and paperwork than you can imagine. You need to open a bank account, with minimal acceptable ID and no history of living in Australia. Then you need to find somewhere to live. How do you find a rental property in Australia, with no rental history?

Once you have a bank account, and you have worked you way through the lines and processes at Centrelink, you now receive around 85% of the Newstart allowance, so about $429 per fortnight. You need rent and bond to get started. You will also need to find a place that fits within your allowance, so you can eat, travel around to appointments and hope to find work. You have no option but to find something very cheap, in outer areas, and with many other people. You certainly have no bargaining power to increase a bid for a rental property, as is the trend here in the cities of Australia!

But you are starting with nothing. So imagine you need to figure out how to furnish your new place with the bare necessities, usually with the help of charities in the community.

Once you have settled, you've found somewhere to live, and you are setting yourself up with further English classes to help with living in Australia, and you are starting to figure out how to find a job. How do you find a job in Australia with no work history in Australia? Maybe your schooling back in your home country was not recognised formally, because you were stateless, or simply because you need to go through many impossible steps to have it acknowledged in Australia. Maybe you didn't get to go to school, due to your family circumstances, or because you needed to work to help your family. Finding work is a very big challenge.

Depending on your visa, you should get an Interim Medicare card for medical assistance. But this doesn't cover everything, and many providers in the community have no idea what this means, You will need to pay full price for any medication, unless you have a support service set up an arrangement for you. For an emergency, of course, you can go to a hospital to be treated - but just hope you are not taken via ambulance, cos we all know how expensive that is!

And then you wait. Wait for your chance to be determined to be a refugee.

Oh! But because you have arrived by boat, even if you are deemed to be a genuine refugee, you still are not given permanent protection to stay in Australia. You will have to go through your refugee determination every couple of years, for the next visa temporary option. Under constant uncertainty about your future; never quite settled, really.

All the while, you have the shadow of Border Force and Immigration hanging over you. You know people back in detention that have been re-detained for the smallest things - for driving without a licence, for a drink driving charge, for being in a fight, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for no good reason given at all. This fear hangs over your head, reminding you of the very fears you held for your life back home.

Not so easy now, is it?

Australia needs an amnesty on it's treatment towards people seeking asylum, who are here, and stuck in our offshore island set-ups. Before we can return to being a country we can be proud of.

Treating people like this is not saving anyone.


  1. We all know how it is in reality but so many like to vilify refugees as 'illegal' or 'terrorists' to make it easy to be cruel to them. It's appalling. Thank you for a good article.

    1. Even, and especially, our very own government!
      Thanks for the comment!

  2. Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.


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