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Issue #1605      August 7, 2013

Australia & asylum seekers

The myths and the facts

In Sydney, one of the many rallies opposing Rudd’s “PNG solution” that were held around Australia. (Photo: Tom Pearson)

Myth: Australia takes in more than its fair share of asylum seekers.

Fact: Contrary to what the media and many politicians are saying, Australia is not being “swamped” by asylum seekers.

Myth: “Boat people” are swamping our shores.

Fact: The vast majority of asylum seekers arrive in Australia by air. There is also data to suggest that people who arrive by boat are more likely to be legitimate refugees.

There have also been hoax e-mails, which claim that that “illegal” immigrants and refugees receive higher rates of payment under a number of Centrelink programs.

Myth: Refugees can receive social security payments simply because they are refugees.

Fact: A refugee who has permanent residency in Australia receives exactly the same social security benefit as any Australian-born person in the same circumstances. Refugees apply for social security through Centrelink like everyone else and are assessed for the different payment options in the same way as everyone else. There are no separate Centrelink allowances that one can receive simply by virtue of being a refugee, nor do refugees receive cash payments under either the Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (IHSS) or the Settlement Grants Program (SGP).

Myth: Refugees receive higher rates of payment under Centrelink programs than age pensioners or other Australians.

Fact: Centrelink payments are calculated at exactly the same rate for both refugees and non-refugees.

Myth: Asylum seekers can receive Centrelink payments.

Fact: Asylum seekers are not entitled to the same forms of financial support as citizens or permanent residents. The Asylum Seeker Assistance (ASA) Scheme provides assistance to eligible asylum seekers who are in the process of having their refugee status determined. The ASA Scheme offers income support to cover basic living expenses, paid at 89 percent of the Centrelink Special Benefit.

Myth: Immigrants can receive Centrelink payments.

Fact: In general, only Australian citizens and permanent residents can receive social security payments from Centrelink and immigrants would certainly not be entitled to such support. It is also factually incorrect to refer to either refugees or asylum seekers as “illegal immigrants”. Recognised refugees in Australia by definition hold either a Refugee Visa or a Protection Visa, both of which entitle the holder to permanent residency. Asylum seekers – regardless of how they arrive in Australia – are permitted under Australian and international law to enter Australia for the purpose of seeking asylum. Therefore asylum seekers have not broken any law and should not be referred to as “illegal”.   

Next article – PNG “solution” cruel, unworkable

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