Financial and housing cuts should not be extended to asylum seeker children

SYDNEY, Monday 28 August 2017:  The federal Government’s newly announced cuts to financial support and housing for asylum seekers, who were transferred to Australia for medical treatment, are punitive and should not be expanded to include families and children, UNICEF Australia cautioned today.

“As a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Australian government has an obligation to ensure all actions concerning children consider their best interests and provide them with the protection and care that is necessary for their well-being,” said UNICEF Australia Director of Policy and Advocacy, Amy Lamoin.

The asylum seekers subjected to the new visa conditions are a group of around 400 who were transferred to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island for medical reasons. UNICEF Australia understands the measures are designed to encourage the asylum seekers to return to Nauru, a condition of arranging a settlement outcome for them.

“These are not reasonable, necessary, or proportionate measures for the Government to take,” Ms Lamoin said. “It is well known that punitive measures are not an effective way to influence positive behaviour - these measures, which remove such critical support, will only increase the risk of negative outcomes like destitution and homelessness.”

She said that, given the desired outcome of a successful settlement solution for this group of people, a more effective approach would be achieved through providing ongoing casework and by continuing the financial support. It would also be more humane.

“This group of people was transferred to Australia to receive medical treatment after falling ill or being subjected to physical or sexual violence – particularly the women,” Ms Lamoin said. “They should not be returned to a place where they were harmed or where their health, safety, and wellbeing cannot be guaranteed.”

UNICEF Australia urges the Australian Government to maintain current support arrangements until a durable solution is found for this group.

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