Torture being ‘prolonged’

Senior lecturer Caroline Fleay and lecturer Lisa Hartley from Curtin University’s Centre for Human Rights.
Senior lecturer Caroline Fleay and lecturer Lisa Hartley from Curtin University’s Centre for Human Rights.

The lecturers presented their report Policy as Punishment to about 100 professionals representing multicultural services at a youth settlement forum at South Ballajura Community Centre last month.

Hosted by Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network WA in partnership with the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre, Department of Local Government and Communities and City of Swan, the forum focused on settlement and inclusion issues faced by asylum seekers and refugees living in Australia.

The report outlines experiences of 29 male and female asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat after August 13, 2012 and released from immigration detention on a BVE to live in the community without the right to work and minimal financial support.

Dr Fleay said the report highlighted the distress and fear many endured because of a denial of work rights and ongoing uncertainty about their refugee claims.

‘Given current policies, it is highly likely they will face months if not several years in the community without the right to work, pending the finalisation of their refugee claims,’ she said.

‘The Federal Government has indicated that asylum seekers who arrived by boat will no longer be entitled to funded migration agent assistance with their refugee claim.

‘These asylum seekers also face the prospect of never being granted a permanent protection visa if found to be a refugee.’

Dr Hartley said some of the interviewees described their situation in Australia as a form of torture or a continuation of the persecution they had experienced in their country of origin.

‘Not having the right to work was the over-riding concern of all of the interviewees,’ she said.

‘Their experiences highlight the importance of granting the right to work to asylum seekers living in the community while they wait for the refugee claims to be processed.

‘Living without the right to work creates forced unemployment, and the minimal financial support received makes it very difficult to fill each day with activities.

‘Even though many of those we interviewed were trying to structure their days with some of the very few activities available and affordable to them, spending waking hours with very little to do also served to compound the mental distress of other concerns.’