A call for all asylum seekers who are released into the community on a bridging visa to be granted the right to work

8 March 2013

The Brotherhood of St Laurence has joined over 50 organisations and 1200 individuals across Australia to campaign for asylum seekers to have the right to work. We believe the right to work is a fundamental human right that should be upheld.

The group has written to Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Minister for Immigration, Brendan O’Connor calling for the right to work for asylum seekers.

"Employment provides people with a pathway out of poverty. People also get a greater sense of wellbeing as they’re engaged and contributing not only to our society, but to their own family’s economic well-being," said Hutch Hussein, a Brotherhood of St Laurence migration expert.

Ms Hussein, the Brotherhood’s Refugees, Immigration and Multiculturalism Senior Manager, added: "This is even more important for new arrivals in our society. Providing people with the right to work allows them to expand their networks, better understand their new country and ultimately integrate into our society."

As history has shown, having asylum seekers live on welfare without training or skill development for years hinders their potential to be able to gain employment when they do achieve permanent residency – and for boat arrivals 90.8 per cent do become permanent residents. It is estimated that in 2013, 10,000 asylum seekers will be released nationally into the community without work rights. There is no guarantee of the level of support provided to them. This will put strain on an already under resourced sector and will hurt the mental health and self-agency of thousands of asylum seekers.

The Federal Government’s announcement in November last year prompted a group of concerned not-for-profit organisations, individuals, businesses and community groups to address the lack of right to work for asylum seekers. This includes those who have arrived after 13 August 2012 and are subject to the new policy and those who arrived prior to 13 August 2012 who have not been granted work rights.

As a group, the signatories to the united statement call 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.

For a full list of agencies supporting the statement please visit: http://righttowork.com.au/take-action/supporters/