6 May 2020
Summary of NRAAG Consultation Outcomes Report
COVID-19 has brought the Australian communities together in a unified way to combat the effects of a global health crisis. While the Australian Government’s unprecedented response has been welcomed by many in the refugee community groups such as citizens and permanent residents who are able to access many of the health and financial responses, major policy gaps have meant many vulnerable groups have been left behind in this time of crisis.
This Consultation Outcomes Report focuses on the feedback NRAAG that has received via its national community consultation held virtually on the 22nd of April 2020. This report aims to consolidate community feedback on the gaps, challenges and barriers in light of COVID-19 rapid responses.
The consultation recorded many barriers, shortfalls and unmet needs with the measures introduced for vulnerable groups. Our key findings from this consultation are classed in four broad categories:
1. Asylum issues
2. Digital divide and literacy
3. Community safety and wellbeing
4. Other emerging issues
The consultation demonstrated that the most hard-hit group within refugee communities are people on Bridging Visas (BV), people on Temporary Protection Visa (TPV), Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV), the elderly and members of the LGBTIQ refugee community.
The community holds grave concerns for those in detention and requests their imminent release from closed detention facilities considering overcrowding and the associated health concerns. Many Bridging Visa holders who are left without any basic financial and health support to get through this crisis are concerned about facing destitution and crippling uncertainty.
Refugees holding SHEV are barred from vital JobKeeper subsidy and face challenges in applying for Special Benefits, even when losing their jobs. Community members called for equity, fairness and leniency of complexities at times of crisis. The consultation highlighted the dilemma for many groups within the refugee community to close the digital divide for equitable access to online resources and services. While it affects mostly the elderly, digital literacy also poses major challenges for homeschooling and online learning for refugee youth and children and their parents.
The consultation raised the importance of community safety and wellbeing and the necessary infrastructure needed in times like this. It was discussed that rising misinformation and panic in refugee communities are symptoms of inadequate, de-centralised, and limited translated audio-visual information. Appropriate and accessible resources must be made available to all.
Community members expressed concerns about the complex intersection of legal limbo and family separation both through humanitarian resettlement and inability of visas such as SHEV and TPV to reunite with immediate family members stranded in conflict zones. The LGBTIQ refugee community members raised the importance of including their complex needs as part of service responses as they are especially vulnerable in this environment.
Other pertinent issues raised by community members included inadequate level of support for refugees with disability, importance of inlanguage centralised information on COVID-19 and a showcase of strengths in times of crisis.
The consultation raised factors that have significantly hampered psychological safety, livelihood and protection for many groups in the refugee community. Community members insisted on equity and leaving no one behind, as COVID-19 is a collective fight.