Claims that refugees and asylum seekers in Australia are living it up

This came up over Sunday lunch yesterday. Sirdan had received an email from his brother in Perth saying that around $50,000 per year plus free housing was being awarded to asylum seekers from Africa. P and I questioned this. If there is an individual case where something like this has happened then it would be exceptional and downright peculiar.

Searching the appropriate departmental sites tells a different story.

Claims that refugees living in Australia are paid more than Australian pensioners (Refugee gets more, Letters, 20/05/09) are incorrect.

For quite some time now the Department for Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has dealt with this issue which began with a hoax email originating in Canada.

The figures quoted in the email bear no resemblance to financial assistance to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia.

The text and figures in the email appear to have originated in Canadian emails, websites and internet chatrooms. We suspect your reader has fallen victim to this email hoax.

Asylum seekers in Australia, who have not yet had their protection claims decided, have no access to Centrelink benefits.

Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme payments to eligible asylum seekers and allowances paid to people in community detention on Christmas Island are paid 89 per cent of the Centrelink Newstart allowance – less than the aged pension.

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. There is no separate rate of benefit payments for refugees.

Refugees received no cash payments under Australia’s Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy. DIAC helps eligible refugees with English-language lessons and settling-in assistance including basic goods to start a household, subsidies for rent and utilities for their first four weeks in the country.

We would strongly encourage anyone who receives an email claiming asylum seekers or refugees are treated more favourably than Australian permanent residents to hit the delete button and ignore these claims.

Sandi Logan
National Communications Manager,
Department of Immigration and Citizenship

20 May 2009

See also Refugee Monthly Allowance From Australian Government Hoax.

In March 2010, The Refugee Council of Australia also updated information on its website dismissing the messages as a hoax. It notes:

The Refugee Council of Australia has called on Australians to ignore hoax emails which continue to be circulated nationally and which claim that refugees receive higher social security payments than pensioners. The emails are blatantly inaccurate and intended to create resentment towards refugees and fuel disharmony.

A refugee who has permanent residency in Australia receives exactly the same social security benefit as any Australian-born person in the same circumstances. Refugees apply for social security through Centrelink like everyone else and are assessed for the different payment options in the same way as everyone else. There are no separate Centrelink allowances that one can receive simply by virtue of being a refugee, nor do refugees receive cash payments under either the Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (IHSS) or the Settlement Grants Program (SGP). The IHSS provides settlement support to eligible refugees and assists them in securing basic necessities such as accommodation, utilities, clothing and medical care. The SGP provides funding to organisations to help new arrivals settle in Australia.

The misinformation in these viral emails has also been further distributed by at least one talk-back radio host who apparently did not bother to take the time to check the facts before sprouting such nonsense over the airways.

Moreover, the message is not even home-grown. In fact it is a mutant sibling of a protest email that has circulated in both Canada and the United States. And the claims in the message are as equally false in those countries as they are in Australia.

Thus, forwarding this misinformation will serve only to create unnecessary anger among Australian citizens and unwarranted resentment of refugees. If you receive this message, please do not pass it on to others and please let the sender know that the information it contains is untrue.

I’ll be interested to see whether the email Sirdan spoke of has this same hoax in it.

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