New arrival refugees in Australia face second trauma Burmese refugees New arrival refugees in Australia face second trauma Newly arrived refugees have been denied full welfare assistance by Centrelink - despite government legislative programs which outline assistance for refugees (under Social Security Act 1991, Activity Test Exemption - Special Circumstances for being refugees). General/RefugeesBy Sai Awn Tai5 December 2008 Burmese refugees who have spent more than ten years in isolated refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border come to Australia on Offshore Refugee and Humanitarian visas (subclass 200-219). These visas give them permanent residency and mean they should be able to access government settlement programs and have a Qualifying Residence Exemption (QRE). According to Australian Immigration, in 2007-08, Australia granted 2,961 humanitarian visas to Burmese refugees. It is expected Burmese will continue to be one of the largest groups of entrants under Australia’s humanitarian program for 2008-09. They have been settled across Australia but the main concentrations are in 關鍵字行銷 two major cities - Sydney and Melbourne. Many refugees from Burma have suffered trauma and face language barriers and cultural and societal displacement. On arriving in Australia, humanitarian refugees are normally given a period of time to study English full-time, and to adjust to the demands of a very different culture. However, it has been reported that some of these refugees are facing pressures that go against these rights. Under humanitarian visas, there is no requirement for them to sign up immediately to look for jobs to entitle them to welfare payments. However, the paper reports that the Government agency Centrelink has forced some refugees to sign up to the “Job Network”, which means they must then apply for a certain number of jobs each week (the “activity test”) to maintain welfare benefits. This is contrary to Social Security Law under the “Activity Test Exemption - Special Circumstances” obligations which was released on 3 November this year. This states: “a refugee is granted automatic G2000exemption (from the “Job Network” demands) for up to 13 weeks after arriving in Australia. This exemption cannot be extended, except where the person is undertaking the Special Preparatory Program (SPP) part of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)”. It means that there should not be any pressure for new arrival refugees within their first 13 weeks in Australia whether they are studying or not. They are entitled to receive welfare payments without any demands to undertake the normal job-seeking activities. For people who have made the massive cultural leap from a refugee camp in the jungles of Asia to the streets of a city in a developed country this period of adjustment is very necessary. However, some new arrival refugees have complained that they have had to join Job Network almost as soon as they arrived in Australia. Than Aung, a holder of visa subclass 200 who is entitled to the Activity Test Exemption, had to join Job Network when he arrived in Australia in November 2006. He came from a background of ethnic Karen, and 室內裝潢had spent nearly ten years in Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. He joined the Adult English Migrant Program (AEMP), 510 hours of English study, within one week of arriving in Coffs Harbour. Despite the fact that this meant he was studying fulltime, Centrelink and the “Job Network” required him to apply for five to ten jobs regularly to claim his benefits. There seems to be some confusion about what is required of new refugees in the government agency Centrelink. Paul Creedon, the Centrelink NSW Media Adviser said, “Refugees can do full time studies such as Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). However if the course is more than one year the person may need to claim Youth Allowance or Austudy. Centrelink will discuss these and any other options with the customer before any changes to payments are made”. Creedon also said that, “in most instances, refugees usually do AMEP which is 510 hrs. Newstart Allowance customers & Youth Allowance need to be registered with the Job Network even if they are studying full time”. However 長灘島 at the Parramatta Job Network a spokesperson claimed that Job Network does not accept students that study more than 15 hours a week or more. Only those who study part time are unemployed and job seekers are eligible to join Job Network. Newstart Allowance recipients are required to focus on job search only if they are not participating in a full-time activity such as a course of education or training. Social security law allows those on a Newstart allowance to take a full-time course particularly if they are unlikely to find work with their existing skills. They are often referred to courses with a vocational focus that will enhance their immediate employability. While they are doing this they don’t need to also be seeking work. Refugees also complained that they were asked to sign agreements that they did not really understand. They also often face problems of understanding other issues because there is no interpreter available for them while meeting the Centrelink’s staff. Centrelink is aware of the need for interpreter services. Paul Creedon, the Cen 婚禮顧問trelink spokesperson said, “Centrelink's Refugee Servicing Unit can and does provide interpreter services to all refugees. We are particularly cautious in not using relatives to interpret, but trained professionals interpret. In some cases we use over the phone interpreting if a suitable interpreter isn't available in person, but access to an interpreter service is always available”. However, it seems that the problem is that Centrelink’s Refugee Servicing Unit is available only at Fairfield. Most refugees live in different suburbs in Western Sydney areas. Nang Win is a Burmese refugee who lives in Auburn and she usually goes to the Centrelink office there. “I was often told that there was no interpreter available when I asked,” Nang Win said in Burmese. Last month Centrelink’s officers came to Auburn Migrant Training Centre (MTC) to explain Centrelink policy to migrant students. “I ask them why Centrelink’s staff always say there is no interpreter available for me. But the officers say sorry on behalf of their staff and give a card to me,” Win said. Win was given a seo card which she can access interpreter on phone. But she said Centrelink staffs do not arrange any telephone interpreter for her whenever she goes there. Gerard Thomas, the Media and Policy Officer of Welfare Rights said, “Our organization has long standing our concern around government policies as they relate to new arrivals and refugees. But Centrelink does not make up this policy, it only implements the directives of the government. So often Centrelink is not to blame for what many of us consider poor treatment of refugees. But many policies can be quite harmful to people who are undergoing a great deal with stress”. NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) is helping refugees recover from their experiences and build a new life in Australia. “Quite a lot of Burmese refugees come to see the STARTTS for counselling with their difficulties. Most of their problems relate to Centrelink. Some of them were referred to the General Support Program by Centrelink and also they are in counselling section of Early Intervenion Program (EIP)” sa 住商房屋id Danial Zu of the General Service of STARTTS. There is an issue of understanding the problem of refugees and their home country background, such as torture and other trauma. Most Burmese refugees have experienced civil conflicts, war and have spent more than a decade in isolated refugee camps. Neng Boi, a Burmese refugee of Kuki ethnic background who arrived in Melbourne about six months ago said, “Some Centrelink staff understand our problem but some don’t. They just pressure us to do things without checking our files properly”. One Centrelink staff member pressured Neng Boi to do a job search and told her that she is not allowed to study, while another staff member on another day said she can continue fulltime study. Referring to refugees’ complaints, Centrelink was asked whether government policy on refugees had been changed recently and if it has impacted on Centrelink’s management on its refugees clients. Creedon responded: “Let me say that there has been no change to the way Centrelink services its refugee customers. We have a Refugee Servicing Unit based in Sydney. Staff in the Refugee Servi 婚禮佈置cing Unit are specialists in servicing refugees and understanding their needs and issues”. From the different stories from Centrelink and refugees, it seems that there is a lack of understanding by Centrelink staff about the rights of refugees, and the best practices to help them – such as ensuring access to interpreter services. However, an investigation has revealed that Centrelink has mistreated some newly arrived refugees by denying them part of Social Security entitlements. In May 2008, the Government announced $49.2 million over four years for English language training and traineeship for work readiness that will assist migrants in finding sustainable employment. “We urge the government to also include in its radar young arrivals, in particular refugees and humanitarian entrants who are at present falling through gaps between education and the workplace,” said Voula Messimeri, the Chair of Federation of Ethnic Communities' Council of Australia (FECCA). More resources need to be directed towards essential settlement services and exemptions for the most vulnerable groups who have low literacy skills like 小型辦公室 refugees. “Clearly the humanitarian program must equip migrants arriving under this scheme with the necessary survival skills required for smooth resettlement,” she said. Eariler this year, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) urged the Australian government to do more for refugees by addressing the practical problems faced by recently-arrived humanitarian entrants, especially in housing, language learning and access to employment. The impacts of government funding practices on the refugee settlement services sector, particularly the competitive tendering of the Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (IHSS) and the short-term funding of the Settlement Grants Program (SGP). The Council of Social Service of NSW (NCOSS) has also been concerned that the recent NSW Government mini budget which will affect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in community. A Burmese case worker at the Parramatta Migrant Resource Centre said, there are some Burmese refugees who are homeless, and come to seek help, but the lack of funding from government means they can do nothing for them. The writer is a student of journalism in Australia – Edi 保濕面膜tor .