By CAM LUCADOU-WELLS
CHARITY groups fear budget changes do nothing to help alleviate the already deperate plight of assylum seekers in Greater Dandenong and Casey.
Tuesday’s Federal Buget confirmed that the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme will be cut by more than 80 per cent from 2016-’17.
It will be chopped to about $5 million a year from 2016-’17 to 2018-’19 – down from $29.3 million in 2014-’15.
For the coming year, the scheme will receive a diminished $26.2 million.
However, the Budget did provide an extra $22.1 million over four years to provide job-seeking assistance to young refugees and other “vulnerable” young migrants.
It also contained $14.5 million for one year to provide English language tuition to refugees on temporary visas.
Aran Mylvaganam of the Tamil Refugee Council said the cuts would make it difficult to help asylum seekers get food, clothes and shelter.
“We’re already struggling in so many ways. Any changes that come from the budget will make it more difficult for asylum seekers in the community.
“Just because you have work rights doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy to get a job.
“It’s pretty much taking another step for the worse for these refugees and asylum seekers.”
Greater Dandenong Council, which has led a multi-Victorian council push for more Federal resources for asylum seekers in the community, was seeking clarity on the Federal funding outlook.
“Any reduction in this support would be of concern,” community services director Mark Doubleday said.
Cath Scarth, chief executive of AMES which provides asylum-seeker settlement services, said extra language tuition funding would help remove a “significant barrier” for new arrivals.
According to government statistics released in December, there are 1632 asylum seekers on bridging E visas living in Dandenong – the highest for any suburb in Australia.
Nearly another 2000 live in surrounding suburbs such as Doveton, Noble Park and Springvale.
As of the end of April, about 12,100 asylum seekers nationwide were granted the right to work.
Coalition Senator Mitch Fifield said the cuts reflected the smaller numbers of “illegal maritime arrivals” since the government “stopped the boats” and closed 13 detention centres.
“Funding has been provided in the current budget and as numbers of IMAs in detention decline the whole detention network will be reviewed over the coming year to establish the future needs and funding for following years.”