New Survey Flies in the Face of Refugee and Asylum Seeker Burden Fears

A new survey by Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) has confirmed the high levels of support provided by religious congregations to refugee and asylum seekers in Australia, which fly in the face of fears these people are a burden on the taxpayer, with their needs being met through concerted localised support.

CRA representative, Sr Libby Rogerson, said the survey, which was completed by 20 congregations, merely scratches the surface of the level of support being provided to these vulnerable people.

“Refugee and asylum seekers are some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Many have gone through the trauma of living in war torn homelands, making the harrowing journey of escape, spending time in detention centres and then living in the community without any certainty about their future in Australia. They are often not permitted to work.

“While religious congregations have provided support to refugees for many years, the survey spotlights the past decade and shows that religious congregations are providing support with direct financial assistance, housing, education, tutoring, health, counselling, legal fees, transport, furniture, clothing and food.

“Australia’s religious have been working with other organisations to provide a real sense of welcome denied to them by the policy of successive Australian Governments,” Sr Rogerson said.

Sr Rogerson said examples of the support provided, include one congregation which purchased a unit block for accommodation in inner city Sydney at a cost of more than $2 million. Other congregations have provided properties in Sydney which are being used for accommodation, education and a drop-in centre providing valuable legal assistance. Similar properties have been purchased by congregations in other capital and regional cities.

“The compilation of this information is not to blow the trumpets of religious congregations, who are honoured to be able to quietly assist these people.

“We are highlighting our support in the hope that the government will allow more asylum seekers into Australia, knowing these people are not a burden on the Australian community, with organisations such as ours being ready and willing to work with them to provide support and to give them a fresh start in our country,” she said.

Sr Rogerson said Australians are a generous people and with the right leadership and pathways, our nation could provide more people with assistance to get back on their feet.

“There are many examples where, through the catalyst of religious orders providing support, many others in local communities have jumped on board and provided practical assistance.

“Often what is needed is a rallying point and the generosity of people will come out in bucketloads.

“What is also needed is an end to the demonisation of refugees and asylum seekers and the recognition that they, like you and me, want to be able to work, receive an education, pay their taxes, be part of our community and have a place to call home,” Sr Rogerson said.

The survey was conducted in the lead-up to a cross-party meeting of Members and Senators at Parliament House, Canberra, with fifty faith leaders on 15 October calling on them to restore Australia’s standing as a compassionate nation by winding back policies negatively impacting on people escaping violence, persecution, torture and death.

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