Another positive initiative killed off before it could really begin.
“THE federal government’s much-heralded “homestay” program for asylum seekers has collapsed, with just four people who have arrived on boats currently staying with Australian families. ” From Homestay boat billet gets the bullet DailyTelegraph, February 12, 2013
What happened in reality is that people are released from detention in such a disorganised , last minute, no notice fashion that it was beyond the Red Cross, Ames and providers in other states to manage. Their staff are so overloaded that they can only manage in “bulk”.
This means that it is easier to place 50 people in a cheap motel or requistioned, abandoned age care home than to put people in individual homes.
Not even the providers have much notice of arrivals. What happens in Melbourne is that people are rounded up at short notice from detention camps, they are bussed onto the tarmac at Darwin Airforce base, loaded in planes then land at Essendon airport. It was described to me by some recent arrivals who were shocked. They said that after they landed , buses streamed onto the Airfield and they were lined up and ticked off into the buses and then sent in different directions to motels or aged care hostels or wherever accommodation is provided for 6 weeks. They could not believe the drama and secrecy.
While we welcome the release of people from detention, we know only too well that it is being done not out of any humanitarian concern but simply becasue the government can no longer afford detention. These post August 13, 2012 people are being treated like cattle. They are billetted in bulk then rounded up and taken to the Multicultural hall hub where they are read the riot act on their conditions of community detention or bridging visa. At the session I attended there were 160 people in 7 different language groups with one immigration officer and seven interpreters telling people what they can and cant do. I leave it to your imagination to consider how useful this exchange was. They had arrived in Melbourne the day before and were literally spinning. They kept saying to me -“why cant we work, Why wont they let us work?’
in 6 weeks they are supposed to have found private rental accommodation with no references, no job and an allowance less than the lowest centrelink payment out of which they are required to reimburse the government for the first two weeks rent and the emergency $200 they were given when they left detention. Not all were so lucky. We have had people come to us who came out of detention empty handed and received no money for ten days. Eight to ten weeks down the track people are bunking up with friends, couch surfing, floor surfing more like it and sleeping rough. We are making sure that life is not easy.
Those who arrived before August 13 have the right to work and this makes the world of difference. Some are luckier than others. People are washing dishes in restaurants for $8-$12 an hour, Working in fast food chains for $5 an hour and basically doing anything they can to survive. There are many out there willing to exploit these folks. Such is life. But then there are other decent people to make up for them.
However they will still tell you that this is better than detention where they had a roof over their head, a bed and food. This speaks volumes about the need for the human spirit to be free. If everyone had the right to work it would benefit all. This is what makes the difference to an unbearable situation. We have seen people come out of detention very unwell but their condition improves markedly when they get work. The Right to Work is a battle we won in 2008 but we now have to fight it all over again.