New research released last week indicates that excluding refugees and people seeking asylum from financial support could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and exacerbate the nation’s health and homelessness crises.
The report, COVID-19 and humanitarian migrants on temporary visas: assessing the public costs outlines the impacts that the “coronavirus recession” is having on refugees and people seeking asylum and the staggering social and economic costs of excluding them from government support at this time.
Key findings from the report include:
- Nearly 19 000 refugees and people seeking asylum will lose their jobs as a result of the current economic turndown;
- Unemployment rates in this group are projected to more than double, from 19.3% to 41.8%;
- For those that remain employed, weekly wages could fall by an average of $90 per week, with 92% of workers earning less than the minimum wage;
- Those in this group who lose their employment, leave the labour force or live below the poverty line are at high risk of poor health and homelessness, with a projected 12% rise in homelessness. As a result:
- Increased hospital admissions could cost an additional $23.4 million/year;
- The increase in homelessness will costs governments an additional $181 million/year.
The report was commissioned by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) and written by researcher John Van Kooy of Monash University. It uses the LGA of Cumberland, NSW as a case study, where they are likely to see almost 800 refugees and people seeking asylum becoming homeless in the near future.
RCOA CEO Paul Power said that the report’s findings were an indictment of the Federal Government’s decision to exclude refugees and people seeking asylum from COVID-19 related support: “This short-sighted decision by the Federal Government is taking a serious toll on the health and safety of people who have sought safety in Australia. As this new research shows, this decision will create much greater strain on already overstretched health and crisis services, at considerable cost to taxpayers and the community.
“Since the pandemic begun, we have repeatedly drawn the Federal Government’s attention to the devastating impact that this decision is having on refugees and people seeking asylum,” Mr. Power added. “The government is knowingly pushing people into poverty, homelessness and destitution, at great social and financial cost. Today, we once again urge the government to rethink this policy and extend a safety net, based on need not on visa status, to all people living in Australia who cannot survive without it.”
Photo: Yasser Alghofily/Flickr