Australian Lawyers join call on PM to ensure #NobodyLeftBehind during COVID-19

May 17, 2020

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has joined a call from over 180 civil society organisations to extend critical COVID-19 support to temporary visa holders, including refugees and people seeking asylum. 

In an open letter sent to the Prime Minister, the group outlined their concerns that 1.1 million temporary visa holders across the country are in precarious situations as COVID-19 unfolds, with no access to JobKeeper or JobSeeker, limited access to Medicare, and visa insecurity. The broad cross-section of faith-based groups, unions and human rights organisations is calling on the Prime Minister, Treasurer and Minister for Families and Social Services to address these gaps.

“Under international human rights law, all people have a right to an adequate standard of living and to the enjoyment of health without discrimination of any kind, including in relation to migration status. In ALHR’s view, the Federal Government’s failure to provide vital COVID-19 support to temporary visa holders breaches Australia’s international obligations because it leaves many vulnerable people, including children, without access to basic income and health support, while also putting the broader community at risk of flow-on health ramifications,” ALHR President, Kerry Weste, said.

The coalition of organisations, including the Refugee Council of Australia, World Vision, Australian Council of Social Services, the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and Australian Council of Trade Unions are responding to advice from epidemiologists and medical experts who are concerned that people who have lost their jobs and can’t access any support will be forced to choose between protecting themselves and feeding their families.

Maintaining the health of the Australian community has never been more vital. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is evident that the welfare of the Australian community as a whole is inextricably linked to how we treat our most vulnerable. Respecting everyone’s human right to access basic medical, financial and social support is key to achieving this.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate,” said Ms Weste. “We call on the Federal Government to ensure the safety net in response to COVID-19 also does not discriminate, regardless of a person’s visa status.”

Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.