August 17, 2012
A series of Facebook posts which claim asylum seekers are being provided with Centrelink payments greater than those paid to pensioners are false, according to the head of Australia’s refugee council.
The posts, some of which have received more than 100,000 ‘likes’ and thousands of comments, claim asylum seekers are also being afforded luxuries such as cars, education and priority access to public housing.
Refugee Council of Australia CEO Paul Power says the claims are completely fabricated and are designed to stir up negative sentiment towards refugees.
“These hoax emails and other myths act as a barrier to understanding the real issues that affect refugees and asylum seekers and are designed to fuel disharmony in the community,” Mr Power told ninemsn.
“A refugee who has permanent residency in Australia receives exactly the same social security benefits as any Australian citizen or eligible permanent resident in the same circumstances.”
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has been aware of the posts — and similar email chains — for a number of years and has actively been working to correct the false information being circulated.
In response to those that have been appearing on both the ninemsn and Nine News Facebook pages, DIAC National Communications Manager Sandi Logan provided a letter to readers that laid to rest the false claims.
“The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has received a large number of inquiries about emails and website posts, including on ninemsn, in which the contents allege refugees receive greater benefits than pensioners and war veterans,” he wrote.
“This is not only wrong, but the department has responded to similar reports over many years, working to ensure myths such as these do not take hold.
“The figures quoted in these posts and (emails) bear absolutely no resemblance to income-support payments to pensioners, or to payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia,” he wrote.
“The text and figures appear to have originated in Canadian emails, websites and internet chatrooms. We suspect the Australian versions circulating here have been cut and pasted from these overseas sources.”
Mr Logan’s email goes on to outline the entitlements available to refugees.
“In Australia, refugees granted permanent visas may gain access to benefits on the same basis and at the same rates as other Australian permanent residents,” he wrote.
“There is no separate rate of benefit payments for refugees. Refugees receive no cash payments under Australia’s integrated humanitarian settlement strategy.”
Asylum seekers who are yet to have their protection claims assessed have no access to Centrelink benefits but are eligible for limited financial assistance through the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS).
The scheme, which is funded by the government and administered by the Red Cross, helps asylum seekers with funds to cover basic needs such as food, accommodation and health care, and is currently 89 percent of the Centrelink Special Benefit.
ASAS also provides access to torture and trauma counselling for those asylum seekers who need it.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship confirmed that refugees who arrive in Australia through the Humanitarian Program immediately gain access to income support payments at the same level as all Australians.
The program, which includes both onshore processing of those seeking asylum and offshore resettlement, saw 13,799 visas granted in 2010-11.
Visa recipients do not receive higher income support payments than other Australians and do not receive lump sum payments or have their rental bonds automatically paid.
As many refugees come from non-English speaking countries, they are allowed up to 510 hours of tuition through the Adult Migrant English Program, and are settled in areas that the government claims have the best opportunity for successful integration into the community.
Other programs designed to get refugees contributing to the community and the economy are in place and are funded through the Settlement Grants Program.
The recent hoax messages come as the federal government and opposition agreed on a policy that will see the return of offshore processing and the turning back of boats.
A major backflip in the government’s stance on asylum seekers, the policy will also see Australia resume talks with Malaysia over the issue.