The Victorian Government today announced it would provide housing and food to refugees and people seeking asylum in Victoria who are facing homelessness and destitution after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton terminated their basic supports last week.
In a move designed to coerce people back to danger and despair on Nauru and Manus, the Immigration Minister last week began issuing ‘final departure Bridging E Visas’. The Minister’s move targets 400 people who have been rebuilding their lives in the Australian community - some for several years - after the Government evacuated them from offshore detention on Nauru and Manus Island. The group includes women sexually assaulted on Nauru, men shot and attacked on Manus and children who were so traumatised by offshore detention that they needed urgent psychiatric care.
The Human Rights Law Centre assists most of the group. HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy, Daniel Webb, welcomed the news that the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews would ensure that no one in Victoria targeted by Dutton will be left homeless or hungry.
“It’s fantastic that Premier Andrews is stepping up to keep a roof over people’s heads. His leadership and basic human decency will make sure that Dutton doesn’t succeed in his efforts to make vulnerable people destitute in Victoria,” said Mr Webb.
However, Mr Webb said that while today’s news would help protect the basic rights of refugees and people seeking asylum in Victoria, hundreds of others around the country remain terrified.
“It’s awful. People are panicking every time the phone rings. They’re terrified of being kicked out onto the streets. These men and women were just starting to rebuild their lives in our communities. Now suddenly they've been completely cut off and are a week away from potential homelessness,” said Mr Webb.
“Dutton is forcing people to choose between destitution here or danger and abuse elsewhere. Essentially, they are being starved out. They desperately need other leaders - other State Premiers and indeed our Prime Minister - to step up and show some basic human decency and compassion,” said Mr Webb.
More than a year ago the successful Let Them Stay campaign prevented Minister Dutton’s first attempt at deporting this group - back to Nauru and Manus Island. The Immigration Minister has not ruled out that the policy would apply to the entire group including families and babies born in Australia. Premier Andrews also wrote to the Prime Minister last year offering to take "full responsibility" for people seeking safety at risk of return to Nauru.
“These are babies who’ve taken their first steps and spoken their first words in Australia. Kids going to Australian schools. Families who have been part of our community for years. And now, out of the blue, they could be effectively thrown out on the streets in a cruel attempt to force them back to harm. Last year all State Premiers came out in support of these men, women and children, it’s wonderful seeing the same happen again,” said Mr Webb.
“It’s time to bring some compassion, common sense and basic human decency back to the way we treat people seeking asylum. Premier Andrews has shown it. Now it’s time for other leaders to do the same,” added Mr Webb.
For further information or interview please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519