Being an LGBTIQA+ asylum seeker in Australia is unbelievably tough, and now a group of asylum seekers and refugees have detailed the extent to which they are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a message reaching out to the Federal Government, the group, represented by Eppypolah Taulafo, told of their experiences.

COVID-19 has left the group – already without government assistance – struggling and unable to return home due to travel restrictions.

“We are a group of LGBTIQA+ asylum seekers and refugees. Our experiences are varied but we all came to Australia to escape violence, homophobia, transphobia and in many cases torture and death threats. We are unable to return from where we came and most of us have “No Travel” conditions on our visas and are unable to leave Australia,” reads the group’s statement.

“We meet together to support each other and to build community and connection for those of us who face the multiple challenges of having diverse genders and sexualities and seeking asylum or living as refugees here. Currently, we are outside the assistance packages proposed by the government and this means the challenges we are facing are about our daily survival.

“Many of us have no access to income, live in unstable housing, have irregular or no work and limited or no access to healthcare including essential medications such as hormones or antidepressants.

“The impact of this instability is not just on our mental health but also our daily survival. Standard living costs like food, transport or communications are becoming harder and harder to manage and we are already looking at poverty, homelessness and hunger.”

Together, the group are asking for inclusion in government support that is afforded to the wider Australian community.

“It is in the interest of all Australians to include asylum seekers and others on temporary visas as it will slow the spread of COVID-19 by enabling access to all the supports required to practice physical distancing. This is impossible if people don’t have reliable accommodation, income, food or medical care.”

Specifically they are calling on the government to:

  • Ensure access to the financial safety nets and income support to all regardless of their visa status including the coronavirus supplement payment, JobKeeper payment and rent relief packages
  • Implement a moratorium on rent payments, utilities and government charges for asylum seekers
  • Provide access to healthcare including Medicare and bulk-billing for all people including temporary visa holders
  • Simplify processes for visa grants and renewals
  • Remove restrictions and conditions on work rights and visas
  • Extend all visas by 12 months with a  guarantee of no deportation or visa penalties
  • Move people urgently out of crowded immigration detention facilities.

“Covid-19 has the potential to be devastating for many thousands of people seeking asylum but we believe that the above measures will help ensure not only our safety but help stabilise the situation overall and reduce health risks to all Australians,” concluded the letter.

Other resources available include a Facebook Group called Trans Asylum Seeker Support Network, “A border-abolitionist mutual aid network supporting Trans and Genderqueer asylum seekers.”

Check it out here.

Meanwhile, ACON exists for community health, inclusion and HIV responses for people of diverse sexualities and genders.

More information including COVID-19 information, updates and resources available at the official ACON website.

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