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Access to Housing


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New migrants find it extremely difficult and are the most disadvantaged concerning their access to housing in Australia.

During 1999, to 2002, the Department for Immigration, conducted the Longitudinal Study of Immigrants to Australia (LSIA). In this study it was found that about nine out of ten migrants are living in shared housing, on their immediate arrival to Australia. Accommodation in public housing was uncommon in this study. In the St George area there is limited public housing services available, and problems such has high rent, and long waiting list to communal housing are evident for migrants.


How Migrants obtain residency in Australia:

What is a bridging visa?

A bridging visa is a temporary visa granted to people who are in the process of applying for a longer-term visa or making arrangements to leave Australia. Bridging visas are granted for many purposes, including to asylum seekers who are seeking refugee status in Australia. The bridging visa enables people to reside legally in the community while they are applying for a permanent visa, appealing a decision related to their application, or waiting to depart Australia.

What conditions and restrictions apply to bridging visas?

There are several different subclasses of bridging visas which are granted to people depending on their circumstances. Bridging visas also come with various conditions and restrictions, depending on the class of the visa and the circumstances of the visa holder.
These conditions and restrictions may relate to:
  • Permission to Work: Bridging visas may be subject to work restrictions, which prohibit the visa holder from working in Australia. This also means they are unable to do voluntary work or study. In cases of severe financial hardship, a visa holder may seek permission to work.
  • Social security: Bridging visa holders cannot access social security benefits.
  • Health care: Bridging visa holders who are not allowed to work are also ineligible for healthcare entitlements under Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Some visa holders may be entitled to access financial and medical assistance through the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS), administered by the Red Cross. However, many asylum seekers do not meet the eligibility criteria. Some states also provide healthcare entitlements to asylum seekers.
Bridging visas with these restrictions are commonly granted to asylum seekers who:
  • come to Australia under a valid visa and wish to apply for a Permanent Protection visa, but do not lodge their application within 45 days of arriving in Australia
  • are released from immigration detention for reasons such as health or age
  • appeal a decision of the Refugee Review Tribunal
  • request a Ministerial intervention.


How do bridging visas affect the lives of asylum seekers?
Bridging Visa
Bridging Visa

As a result of these restrictions, many asylum seekers and refugees may face poverty and homelessness. Without the ability to support themselves through work or social security, they are entirely dependent on community services for their basic subsistence. The restrictions on volunteer work and study also mean that many people are unable to engage in any constructive or meaningful activity. Research has also shown that these conditions can have negative effects on the physical and social well-being of asylum seekers, including anxiety, depression, mental health issues and family breakdown.
Allowing asylum seekers to work and support themselves would enable them to be better prepared, both financially and psychologically, for the outcomes of their cases. It may also be economically beneficial to Australia as a large number of asylum seekers have skills that are in high demand.
The lack of access to adequate healthcare is also concerning since many asylum-seekers have elevated medical needs due to experiences prior to arriving in Australia, such as conflict and trauma.




What are the human rights implications of bridging visas?

The conditions and restrictions placed on bridging visa holders can impact significantly on their ability to exercise basic human rights. These rights include the right to work, the right to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
Australia has obligations under several international instruments to ensure that the human rights of asylum seekers are protected, including the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). As a signatory to both these Conventions, Australia is required to take concrete and targeted steps to promote and protect the human rights of all people in Australia, including asylum seekers.

A person who is homeless may be facing violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to privacy, the right to social security, the right to freedom from discrimination, the right to vote, and many more.
These human rights are protected by a number of international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Rights of the C(CRC)
.

Every person has the right to an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to adequate housing (ICESCR, article 11).
The right to housing is more than simply a right to shelter. It is a right to have somewhere to live that isadequate. Whether housing is adequate depends on a range of factors including:
  • legal security of tenure
  • availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure
  • affordability
  • accessibility
  • habitability
  • location
  • cultural adequacy.

    - Migrants with no previously organised employment before they arrive will find it difficult to afford accommodation. Therefore in need of public housing programs.
    - Migrants must be placed in the public housing ‘queue’ if they cannot afford housing; this is very lengthily, up to seven years.
    - While waiting in the queue migrants are forced to find private rental accommodation; this is difficult if they cannot prove they have stable income and history.
    - They can seek rent assistance from the Government.

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Management strategies

Problems and impacts
- http://www.rncos.com/Blog/2008/08/Australia-Needs-More-Homes-to-House-Migrants.html
- The Australian Housing Association believes that with the demand of new homes by immigrants, there is a need for 190 000 new homes in 08-09 and there could be a shortage of 240 000.
- Over the past few years Australia’s shortage of housing as been due to the high immigration levels. To manage this shortage the federal Government has announced the cut back of permanent migration program by 14%, in the hope to cut back the demand for housing.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/16/2516982.htm
The shortage of housing and the difficulty of accessing it, can greatly impact on new migrants to Australia, both financially and emotionally.
http://eccv.org.au/doc/HousingVictoriasNewMigrantandRefugeeCommunities.pdf

Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (IHSS)
To overcome, and ease the issue of difficult access to housing of migrants, different levels of Government have formed or support different public housing programs.
The Commonwealth Government have funded a scheme called the Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (IHSS). The scheme was formed to assist migrants or refuges to seek out and obtain housing, in either the public or private market. The case managers of the IHSS are very valuable in the process of obtaining housing for refugees.

The case manager;
The case manager help new migrants to sign leases, and go further to assist in the connection of vital services, such as electricity and gas. The case managers make sure that their migrants have enough access to food, and housing goods.
Under this scheme housing is usually arranged before the migrant/s arrival, to ensure they have accommodation not long after arrival.



Migrant Access Projects Scheme (MAPS)
The Migrant Access Projects Scheme (MAPS) was administered with the aim of identifying the issues regarding, migrants who do not speak English, attempting to obtain housing in any of the three housing sectors ( public, private and community), and how to fix these issues.
MAPS was administered in 1991 by the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs.

Findings
Issues
One of the major issues that was identified from the Scheme was that the majority of housing agencies are run by Anglo- Australians. To help minimise this issue it is important that policies for non speaking migrants are implemented, such as: a language policy-using appropriate translating services, anti-racist training
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs promotes a fair private rental market. But in saying this, it has no existing policies for providing services for migrants of a non English speaking background. To combat this issue it is recommended that a tribunal for tenancy disputes and property condition reports is created to assist these migrants in the search for safe, secure and fair housing conditions.

Progress
After the second year of MAPS, progress was made in certain areas in response to MAPS recommendations.
- Development of cultural diversity training for works in the three housings sectors.
- Language Service Strategies was created by the WA State Government.
- Development of Cultural Diversity Workshops for property managers of real estate companies.
- Endorsement of Equal Housing Opportunity’s Code of Conduct by the Real Estate Institute of WA.
Further Recommendations
- Community information sessions
- Cultural diversity training, provided for the workers in the three housing sectors.
- Housing information radio scripts, provided in community languages.



STATISTICS
More then 250,000 immigrants have used and accessed the government and other services for housing assistance. Housing assistance was minor in comparison to other areas and part of all services used by recent immigrants was less then 5%of the the total. Housing services is important and the total pool of LSIA respondents amounted to 13% of total assistance received for immigrants. Other government agencies were the single soucre of help in finding houses for immigrants (24.3%), Australian friends (13.9%) and relitives (11.8%). The government aims to get these numbers higher in the next few years.







Where assylum seekers come to live in Australia
Most immigrants that come to Australia live in the main cities and very few live outside these cities. Western Australia has the largets population of immigrants in Australia in relation to its population. NSW, ACT and Victoria also have high immigrant populations. As melbourne and Sydney are import points for immigrants their is a continual rise in the population of immigrants, this then creates a pattern of migration as immigrants tend to want to stick together and not be serperated.
In the 1950’s and 1960s larger migration to south Australia occured as large industrial development was built. This meant more jobs available, however the number of immigrants declined soon after due to econimic downfall.
Tasmania and the northern territory have fewer assylum seekers, but Queensland has the least immigrants even though it is the most rapidly growing state.
Immigrants are more considerate of location compared to people born in Australia as it is much harder for them to recive work, housing and may faces language barriers
http://www.multiculturalaustralia.edu.au/doc/hugo_1.pdf

kkk.JPGThis table shows the amount of immigrants living in sydney, compared to the people born in Australia. The trend shows that suburbs out west such as Cabramatta, Campsie, Parramatta, Aurburn and liverpool. This is due to cheaper and more accommodation available. Most of these suburbs have almost double the amount of people born overseas compared to people born in Australia, the highest being Haymarket in sydney with 89.30% being born over seas however Haymarket has a smaller population. These suburbs however aren't close to the city as these immigrants seek different areas of work.



Access to social services


Social security

Social security eligibility is based on visa entry category. Recently data records of immigrant’s demographics have been made accessible to the public by the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia (LISA). This allows for analysis of social security and services given to immigrants in relation to visas and entry categories. Social security Act 1991 (Cwlth) 2 year waiting period applies to majority of payments, unemployment, illness and student allowances.immigrants are expected to support themselves untill they recives government support or they can be sponsored.
Migrants sick of waiting
Migrants sick of waiting




Receiving of social services


Providing social services to migrants has been given a lot of research in relation to whom and how much support is given. It was found that some immigrants have been advantaged and become immediate users of the public services where others are made to wait extensive periods of time. Some migrants are advantaged due to their skills that can be used in the workforce, other families of migrants have been argued to be advantaged by receiving social services when they are already given sponsor support.
When the coalition government introduced the 2 year waiting period for all immigrants after arriving to Australia it brought up a lot of discussion. Since 1993 immigrants have been made to wait 6 months before they can gain a permanent visa and be allowed to access social services as apart of the 1992 and 1993 budget. Since the 2 year waiting period (1996) immigrants can not gain services such as job assistance and sickness allowance until after the 2 year waiting period. Special benefits are given to those desperately in need.





Amounts received


Usually receive between $300 and $400 per fortnight.
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Translating and interpreting service


TIS- translating and interpreting service. This service is supported by the DIAC everyday. This service consists of:
- Free interpreting via telephone
- Document translating
- Free translating in person for limited organisations
- Three way interpreting services (small cost)
The TIS interpreter can use telephones of meeting with clients to communicate.




Problems with Accessing Social Services.


Migrants must have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least two years before they can access most social security payments, including unemployment assistance, sickness benefits and student allowances. Some family migrants must have an Assurance of Support lodged for them. This is a legal commitment to repay the Australian Government certain welfare payments paid to migrants during their Assurance of Support Period and is usually, but not necessarily, lodged by a sponsor.Most new migrants are not eligible for age or disability pensions until 10 years after their arrival in Australia.
Statistics:

· 1 in 10 immigrants are from non- English speaking backgrounds
· 12% are men, 15% are women
· Out of the 17% of the people born outside Australia, 12% seek social services and housing
· 24% of Australia’s population is born over seas
http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/UserFiles/File/Homelessness%20NESB%20and%20migrants%20for%20web.pdf







Language barrier when recieving social services


Social services receive very little funding, therefore it is difficult to advertise their services and are unknown to the migrants in need. The language barrier also makes it difficult for migrants to understand and gain access to these services as most of the time they are unaware of their existance.

Australia settlement services


Since the Department of immigration (1945), 6 million migrants have come to Australia.
The Australian governments aim is to assist migrants through services and program, to help them become apart of Australian society. The commonwealth government has supported these services since after the war, allowing for assimilation to integration to multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism programs are funded by the commonwealth and other state agencies. Some of these services include:

  • discrimination tribunals
  • advisory committees
  • community language teaching
  • commonwealth department of immigration
  • and numerous multicultural issues
http://www.aph.gov.au/library/intguide/sp/settlement.htm