The federal government’s decision to strip income support and housing from asylum seekers transferred to Australia for medical treatment “beggars belief as an unprincipled act of cruelty”, the head of one of Australia’s largest charities has said, The Guardian reports.
The comments from the chief executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society, Dr John Falzon, came in response to the Department of Home Affairs targeting a cohort of up to 100 people on Thursday, transferring them to six-month bridging visas, which come with work rights, and withdrawing housing assistance and income support of about $200 a fortnight.
A group of single adults who were moved on to bridging E visas (BVEs) last year had their visas rolled over for another six months.
Most of those targeted last week were families with young children, who were given six weeks to find new accommodation and a source of income.
“Obviously this is going to hurt individuals very profoundly,” Falzon said.
“Already the payment level was clearly inadequate when you consider it’s less than the inadequate Newstart level, so people were struggling, facing a daily battle for survival from below the poverty line.
“To pick on this group of people and use discretionary powers by the minister to take away the little that they were entitled to just absolutely beggars belief as an unprincipled act of cruelty towards people who already bear an enormous burden of inequality.”
Falzon said the department’s move was part of a pattern by the government to outsource its responsibility for vulnerable people to charities and community groups, which would now have to step in and support those who struggled to find housing or work – whether because of illness, language skills, age, or the fact they had only a six-month visa.
“On a policy level, it’s profoundly disturbing,” he said.