Frequently Quoted Inaccuracy #4: Asylum seekers receive more welfare benefits than Australian citizens

It is interesting that the Federal Government provides a Single Refugee with a monthly allowance of $1,890.00 and each can also get an additional $580. 00 in social Assistance, For a total of $2,470.00. Family of 4 receive $9,880.00 per month. Family of 4 receive yearly $118,685

A single Australian pensioner who, after contributing to the growth and development of Australia for 40 to 50 years, receives only a monthly maximum of $1,012.00 in old age pension and Guaranteed Income Supplement.

Maybe our pensioners should apply as refugees! [1]

Reality:
The claim that asylum seekers and refugees receive more government assistance than Australian citizens has no basis in fact. The particular argument made above was originally based on one man’s misunderstanding of the support provided by the Canadian government to refugees, and therefore the figures referred to are from Canada, and not Australia.[2]

For asylum seekers (those whose claims for refugee status have not yet been finalized) awaiting claim processing in the community on a bridging visa, the Australian government provides limited support through the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme.[3] Generally, an asylum seeker must have been waiting more than six months for resolution of their claim to be eligible.[4] The Scheme is administered by the Red Cross and provides health and welfare services, including income support. In 2008-09, this Scheme cost approximately $2,615.16 per client.[5] By way of comparison, a single Australian student living out of home in a share house in 2010 is eligible for a minimum of $13,067.00 per year,[6] and (excluding the pension supplement) a single age pensioner is eligible for $ 16,749.20 per year.[7]

This group of asylum seekers may also be eligible for professional assistance with preparing a protection visa application, while work rights and temporary eligibility for Medicare depend on the type of bridging visa granted to an asylum seeker as they await resolution of their claim. The benefits are not automatic.

No financial or health assistance (apart from the medical services provided in the detention facilities) is available to those who arrive in Australia without a valid visa (by boat or otherwise) and are in mandatory detention. Limited immigration advice and application assistance is available for ‘disadvantaged persons’.[8]


[1] An e-mail circulated throughout Canada, Australia and the United States. For examples, see: http://www.topix.com/forum/world/australia/TM0545U0G2M9E5PKO; http://forum.craftmagazines.com.au/showthread.php?t=2172&page=174.

[2] Luke Buckmaster, ‘Australian Government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction’ (2009) Parliamentary Library Background Note, p. 2. <http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/bn/sp/AsylumFacts.pdf> at 17 August 2010.

[3] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Commonwealth of Australia, “Fact Sheet 62 – Assistance for Asylum Seekers in Australia”, updated 1 March 2010.  <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/62assistance.htm> at 17 August 2010.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Centrelink, Commonwealth of Australia. Last updated 1 July 2010. <www.centrelink.gov.au/internet/internet.nsf/payments/ya_rates.htm> at 17 August 2010.

[7] Centrelink, Commonwealth of Australia. Last updated 5 July 2010.  <http://www.centrelink.gov.au/internet/internet.nsf/payments/age_rates.htm> at 17 August 2010.

[8] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Commonwealth of Australia, “Fact Sheet 63 – Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme”. Last updated 23 June 2010. <http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/63advice.htm> at 17 August 2010.

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