*Ahnaf came to Australia in 2007 from Bangladesh and applied for a humanitarian visa for himself and his family in 2017.
Ahnaf previously worked as a taxi driver to support his wife and three Australian born children, aged five, six and seven. He lost his job mid-March due to the lack of work driven by the COVID-19 shutdowns.
“I used to drive taxis, but now there is no jobs, everything is gone. I haven’t been working since the 13th of March,” he said.
Unlike many others in his situation, Ahnaf has been left without access to a welfare safety net, forced to rely on support from not-for-profit organisations like SSI.
This is because people seeking asylum in Australia who are on bridging or temporary visas have been omitted from the federal government’s COVID-19 emergency stimulus payments for people who have lost their jobs.
Consequently, Ahnaf’s loss of employment has left his family without an income. They are now two months behind on the $320 a week rent he pays for his family’s Wiley Park apartment. As a result, they received an eviction notice to vacate the property before July 10.
Red Cross supported the family with a one off $800 grant in early March. While the grant was helpful, it only covered his five-person family’s food and general expenses for the month, leaving them with nothing to pay their rent.
Now that this small grant has run out, Ahnaf is struggling to put food on the table.
“For the past month, and even before that, we have been having some pasta, noodles, but not any real meals with meat or fish or vegetables and other stuff.”
When Ahnaf first came to Australia his dream was to study at University, but due to political turmoil in Bangladesh his father was not able to continue with his plan to fund his son’s studies.
Because of the breakdown in Bangladesh, he felt unable to return, and in 2017 applied for his family, including his two children, to receive Asylum in Australia. He has not yet had his first meeting with immigration.
“My goal when I first came to Australia was to go to university: the Australian National University, to study physics, but I couldn’t because of the breakdown in Bangladesh. My goals now these days are actually just to get some financial support.”
He is still hopeful that one day he will be able to study, but “right now it seems impossible.”
Ahnaf was provided with a bag of pantry staples, frozen vegetables, meat and eggs, bread, fruit and several prepacked meals prepared by Colombo Social. He was also provided with a $100 gift card for general expenses and is receiving support to get back into SSRS.