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Seeking asylum, facing starvation

23 July 2018

The Salvation Army’s Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service at Tinning Street, Brunswick (Vic.), assists men, women and children who live on hope and precious little else.
Karen Elkington

The federal government’s plan to withdraw vital support for up to 12,000 people seeking asylum, living lawfully in the community on bridging visas, impacts many of the people the Salvation Army helps at Tinning Street. The removal of Status Recognition Support Service (SRSS) funding will leave them destitute, homeless, cold and hungry, unable to feed or clothe their children, or pay their rent should they be unable to find sufficient employment.  

Their cause has been taken up by numerous NGOs and churches, including the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT), and the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). The Salvation Army is a member of all three of those bodies. 

Major Karen Elkington, manager of the Salvation Army’s Asylum seeker and Refugee Service, reports that her service (only open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays due to funding restrictions) conducts 30 Emergency Relief appointments per week, all funded by The Salvation Army with no government assistance. Human and financial resources are scarce.

In the past six months the service assisted 513 distinct clients and 1,838 of their dependents. Each client has attended two or three times in a six-month period.*

The vast majority of people the service assists are couples with children (73%). Sole clients with children (11%), couples without children (7%) and sole clients (aged 18 and over, 9%) comprise the remainder of people assisted.*

‘The Status Resolution Support Service special benefit being scrapped is only 89% of the Newstart allowance,’ Major Elkington said. ‘It is not enough for people to live on. It makes no sense to remove people’s income and force them into destitution and despair. We have growing cohorts of people who do not have any income.’

The Salvation Army has supported appeals against the cuts and is engaged in ongoing advocacy regarding the issue.
* Information from a December 2017-May 2018 report generated by The Salvation Army’s SAMIS system.