|Hon Steven Marshall MP
Premier of South Australia
State Administration Centre
200 Victoria Square
ADELAIDE SA 5000
By email: email@example.com
RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC – WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
I am writing to you as Premier of South Australia and as a member of the National Cabinet to draw your attention to the urgent need to support people seeking asylum and refugees during the COVID‑19 pandemic. I do so as a South Australian elector and as a supporter of Justice for Refugees SA, a non-partisan community organisation working for just and compassionate treatment of people seeking asylum and refugees in keeping with Australian traditions of generosity, openness and fairness.
While the coordinated national response of Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments so far has been a very positive one, I am concerned insufficient attention has been given to the needs of some of our society’s most vulnerable residents.
Maintaining the health of everyone currently in Australia, regardless of their citizenship or visa status, is in the interests of us all. The health of the entire community depends on every one of us being able to safely observe the physical distancing, quarantine and isolation measures recommended by our health authorities.
I am therefore joining many others, including members of the Refugee Council of Australia and Rural Australians for Refugees, in calling for the inclusion of people seeking asylum and refugees in any government support package that is designed to support people, the economy and public health. Whether people are residing in detention facilities offshore or onshore, seeking asylum in Australia, without access to income support or even to Medicare they will be less able to safely observe public health and safety requirements, or receive treatment as required.
In particular, I call for the Australian Government to take a number of bold actions to improve individual situations and reduce health risks to the broader community:
- Ensuring all people have access to medical treatment and Medicare for people seeking asylum
- Ensuring all people have a financial safety net so they are not forced into destitution
- Preventing people from losing legal status and access to support
(see https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/open-letter-covid/; https://www.ruralaustraliansforrefugees.org.au/ )
While most of these actions fall within the constitutional responsibility of the Australian Government, the National Cabinet provides a mechanism for raising these issues of importance which have a bearing on the health and welfare of the entire nation.
This suite of actions minimises the risk of people seeking asylum and refugees becoming homeless and ensures they have the medical treatment they need to stay healthy and to avoid making others sick. To add, the economic impact of more than 1.1 million people losing work, not being able to pay their rent and buy food will have a profound economic impact on the local communities, significantly affecting state and local governments.
As a community, we have the opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic to make decisions that are compassionate, constructive and responsible. Only in doing so can we ensure Australia emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic with a resilient, healthy and cohesive community. There are tens of thousands of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia who make up our communities, and they cannot be forgotten at this time of great need.
I ask you to raise this issue with the Prime Minister and other members of the National Cabinet as a matter of urgency. I look forward to hearing your response.