Cutting off support for up to 400 asylum seekers in the Australian community defies belief and will end with children becoming homeless, human rights lawyers and advocates say.
The Human Rights Law Centre and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre say about 100 people will be immediately affected by the Turnbull government’s crackdown, but estimates the number could be as high as 400.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge could not confirm the precise number at risk of being sent back to Nauru or Manus Island or their country of origin, but said there wouldn’t be any further provision of taxpayer support in Australia.
It will see asylum seekers living in the community booted from public housing and no longer receive their $200-a-fortnight welfare payments.
“They’ve been prevented from working,” Human Rights Law Centre executive director Hugh de Krester told reporters in Melbourne.
“And now, completely out of the blue, with no notice whatsoever, they’ve been told tomorrow, ‘you have no income we’re taking all of your income away and in three weeks time we’re taking your homes away’.
“It defies belief that any decent government could act in this way.”
Advocate Michelle Boucher said the asylum seekers were “very, very employable” and want to work, but with their history of trauma and the short notice, getting on their feet in “this time frame is absurd and it’s impossible and it will end with children homeless.”
Mr Tudge said the move was consistent with the principle that anybody who arrives by boat would not be settled in Australia.
“They will be settled elsewhere. That’s what this is about,” he said.
He did not think it was unreasonable to withdraw taxpayers support if they refuse to return back to Manus or Nauru.
Fairfax Media reported support would be cut to 100 asylum seekers, but Labor immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann believes it could involve up to 400, saying the Turnbull government has “sunk to a new low”.
“By purposefully making these people destitute and homeless, the Turnbull Government can only be exacerbating the health conditions which asylum seekers were originally transferred to Australia to be treated for,” Mr Neumann said in a statement.
A Department of Immigration document says income support will cease from Monday, August 28 and a “final departure Bridging E Visa” will be issued giving asylum seekers three weeks to move out of government supported accommodation.
“You will need to find money each week for your own accommodation costs … you will also be responsible for all your other living costs like food, clothing, and transport,” the department’s fact sheet says.
They will also be expected to sign the Code of Behaviour when released into the Australian community.
Senior Liberal frontbencher Dan Tehan said the government would provide Medicare support where it was necessary.
“But we want these people until they go back to be getting a job,” he told Sky News.