Thousands of asylum seekers in Australia are suffering from homelessness, poverty, and poor mental health, a new report by the Human Rights Commission revealed.
The report, entitled Lives on Hold, is the first comprehensive look into the experience of 30,000 people who are unable to be permanently settled in Australia because they arrived by boat between 2009 and 2013.
The individuals — often referred to as the "legacy caseload" — are the last group of asylum seekers who were allowed to stay in Australia before policy changes saw all ensuing boat arrivals sent to offshore detention centers.
Those in the legacy caseload are living in a state of ‘limbo,’ the report states.
Many face continued delays in the processing of their visa claims without access to working rights or adequate welfare.
"In addition to processing delays, people in the legacy caseload have faced a range of challenges. While most have been released from closed detention, they have limited access to support services while living in Australia,” Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow said. “If found to be refugees, they are not eligible for permanent residency in Australia. Due to restrictions on family reunion opportunities, they face the prospect of indefinite separation from their family members.”
Due to these hurdles, the report claims the asylum seekers face heightened financial grief and poor mental health and settlement outcomes. They are also more likely to be sent to a country where they are liable to be subjected to persecution.
Exclusive: More than 7500 asylum seekers who have been in Australia for more than five years are yet to have their refugee claims assessed, with @AusHumanRights warning it has “serious concerns” about the impact of the delays on their mental health https://t.co/Yj5qd6vu8y— Jewel Topsfield (@JewelTopsfield) July 16, 2019
The report makes 31 recommendations intended at enhancing the lives of these asylum seekers and refugees.
These include increasing available mental health services, expediting visa applications, abolishing the ban on asylum seekers receiving permanent residency, a full review of support payments, and ensuring access to family reunion opportunities.
Australia’s Department of Home Affairs has rejected all recommendations.
The department claims reviewing the backlog of cases is “complex” because a large quantity of individuals originally arrived in Australia without any legal documentation. A department spokeswoman also told the Sydney Morning Herald that "in some cases, the circumstances in home countries have changed substantially since arrival.”
"We have an obligation to consider this carefully on a case-by-case basis,” she added.
The department further states that 22,280 individuals in the legacy caseload have had their visa claims processed as of May, 2019. The vast majority of these people received a temporary protection visa, as opposed to being granted or refused refugee status.
Around 7,500 are still waiting for their visa applications to be processed, while just over 1,200 are awaiting the outcome of their review. At least 6,600 individuals have had their claims rejected, but remain in Australia until they can challenge the decision in the nation’s Federal Court.