19 May 2009

DIAC: refugees on permanent Australian visa don't get more benefits than pensioners

An email claiming that permanent Australian visa holders with a refugee status are receiving more benefits from the government than Australian pensioners has been denied by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).

Refugees with a permanent Australian visa have the same access to benefits on the same basis as other permanent Australian visa holders, despite claims made in an email circulating the Internet recently.  According to this email, asylum seekers detained on Christmas Island and refugees permanently in Australia were receiving more benefits than pensioners.

"The figures quoted in the email bear no resemblance to income-support payments to pensioners, or to payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia," DIAC spokesperson Sandi Logan said today.

According to DIAC, the email originated offshore in Canada and has been spread worldwide over the Internet.

People emigrating to Australia through the asylum seeker program cannot access the same Centrelink benefits as a permanent Australian visa holder until they have had their Australian visa approved by DIAC.  Centrelink is a government-run institution that provides services and financial support for the unemployed, including study options to increase one's skills, job interviewing techniques and English language ability.

"Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme payments to eligible asylum seekers and allowances paid to people in community detention on Christmas Island are the same rate – 89 per cent of Centrelink Newstart allowance," the spokesperson added.

Once granted their permanent Australian visa, refugees are then provided essential items to start a new life in Australia, including basic items to start a household and rent and utilities assistance for the first month.

"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 scurrilous claims," Mr Logan added.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their permanent Australian visa.

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