Asylum seekers face welfare crackdown under Government changes

Asylum seekers face welfare crackdown under Government changes

Asylum seekers face welfare crackdown under Government changes

Updated 27 August 2017, 13:15 AEST

The Government will cut income support and accommodation services for about 100 asylum seekers in Australia for medical treatment, a move Labor says is designed to make vulnerable people "destitute and homeless".

The Federal Government is set to launch a welfare crackdown on some asylum seekers who were originally transported to Australia for medical treatment.

Key points:

  • More than $200 a fortnight in income support to be cut for around 100 people
  • Affected asylum seekers will have three weeks to move out of government-supported accommodation
  • Rights advocates slam move as "an act of shocking cruelty"

The changes, which are estimated to affect fewer than 100 Australian-based asylum seekers, include cutting more than $200 a fortnight in income support.

Those impacted will also have three weeks to move out of government-supported accommodation.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the asylum seekers in question were expected to return to Nauru or Manus once their medical treatment was completed.

"They were brought here temporarily, but refuse to return and take out court injunctions to prevent their removal," he said.

"Those whose treatment has been completed will be told the Government, the taxpayer, will no longer provide financial assistance."

The spokesman said the number of people impacted was "less than 100" and they would be dealt with "on a case by case basis".

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the crackdown was in line with the Government's stance on immigration.

"We've got a very firm principle that anybody who arrives by boat will not be granted access and permanent residency in Australia" he told Sky.

"They came to Australia for a reason, that reason has now been accomplished and now they need to return."

Government 'making these people destitute'

There are almost 400 asylum seekers currently in Australia on temporary visas on either medical or compassionate grounds.

Those initially affected by the changes will be moved onto what will be known as a "final departure Bridging E Visa".

Labor's immigration spokeswoman Shayne Neumann accused the Government of targeting the "most vulnerable".

"By purposefully making these people destitute and homeless, the Turnbull Government can only be exacerbating the health conditions which asylum seekers were originally transferred to Australia to be treated for," he said in a statement.

But his Labor colleague and predecessor in the immigration portfolio, Richard Marles, acknowledged permanent settlement in Australia was not an option.

"It's very important that Australia remains off the table, it's very important that those on Manus and Nauru not be resettled in Australia," he told the ABC's Insiders program.

"There is a duty of care which needs to be fulfilled in respect of those people and I think the Government needs to be very mindful in respect of how that duty of care is being fulfilled."

Asylum seeker advocates warned the crackdown would hurt some of the poorest refugees.

Hugh de Kretser from the Human Rights Law Centre labelled the changes "an act of shocking cruelty".

"Some of these people have been part of our community for years," he said.

"Now Peter Dutton has decided has decided to make them destitute in an attempt to coerce them to return to danger, to force them to return to harm."