Call for welfare support for temporary visa holders

On April 6 2020, the Migrant Employment Legal Service (MELS) wrote to the Minister for Families and Social Services, the Hon Anne Ruston MP, to express concerns about the inability of vulnerable migrant workers to access welfare payments. 

The joint letter from the Migrant Employment Legal Service (MELS), comprised of Redfern Legal Centre, Marrickville Legal Centre, Kingsford Legal Centre and Inner City Legal Centre, raises concerns that Australia's migrant worker population is being significantly disadvantaged amid the COVID-19 crisis.

While temporary stand downs, terminations and redundancies affect every employee in a negative way, we are concerned for the 1.1 million temporary visa holders for which there is currently no government subsidy available if they lose income during the COVID-19 crisis.

Many of these workers are not able to return to their home countries because they cannot get flights, or because borders have been closed to contain the transmission of COVID-19.

In a media statement, RLC solicitor and Migrant Employment Legal Service (MELS) steering committee member Sharmilla Bargon said:

“Australia relies on migrant workers to care for our sick and to teach our children. Migrant workers play an essential role at all levels of Australia’s food supply chain, picking our fresh produce, cooking and preparing our meals, and delivering them to Australia’s increasingly self-isolated population. We owe it to these essential workers to provide support.”

The MELS letter calls on government to extend financial welfare support to those on temporary work visas to avoid leaving these critical members of our workforce behind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Download letter