Settlement Services International (SSI) congratulates NSW Premier Mike Baird following his announcement today that the state government will provide travel concessions to asylum seekers from January 1, 2016.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the news had been long awaited and follows joint representations by the organisation and humanitarian and community service providers.
“Our asylum seeker clients regularly report that the cost of travel is prohibitive due to their limited income. While it’s starting in January next year the travel concession will provide much needed financial respite for a group of people living below the poverty line.
“Many asylum seekers are at the start of the process of applying for a protection visa. This means that they need to access a number of services in order to meet their visa requirements and make arrangements to rebuild their lives in Australia including medical visits, finding accommodation, trauma counselling and attending English language classes.”
“I want to congratulate the Premier and the NSW Government for taking this much needed action and for improving the lives of a very vulnerable group of people in our community,” Ms Roumeliotis said.
The travel concessions will help asylum seekers, who are among the most financially vulnerable in our community, access important social and community services and increase their participation in our society.
Premier Baird said the concessions would be the most generous of any state in the nation – equivalent to the concessions currently available under the Gold Pension Concession Card.
In his announcement today Premier Baird said: “I am of the view that Australia is the lucky country and we have a responsibility to help those who have nowhere else to turn,” Mr Baird said.
“NSW is Australia's economic powerhouse, but there is little point in having a strong economy unless we use this strength to help the vulnerable among us.
“NSW has shown we are prepared to help asylum seekers in our community and we want to do even more.
“This group is one of the most vulnerable in our society, often living below the poverty line. Evidence suggests that lack of access to dispersed services is a key impediment to their health and well-being.
“Being unable to travel creates social isolation which leads to deteriorating mental and physical health.
“Until now, it has been the non-government community agencies funding transport for asylum seekers in NSW. This change allows those NGOs to be putting more of their limited resources into food, counselling and housing – where it is needed most.”
The eligibility criteria will largely emulate the model currently operating in Victoria and applicants will need to apply.
To be eligible for this card the applicant must be:
either holding a Bridging Visa or applying for one; and
over 17 years of age; and
receiving aid from a designated agency.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance says eligible asylum seekers will receive a $2.50 ticket that provides for all day, multimodal travel.
“We are providing these travel discounts to asylum seekers to help them participate more fully in our society and access a range of social and community services,” Mr Constance said.
“Many of the asylum seekers in NSW are at the very start of the process of applying for a protection visa. This means that they need access to a wide range of services in order to navigate this process and rebuild their lives”