Close to 100 asylum seekers are no longer receiving welfare payments, after a decision by the Turnbull government came into effect.
The men and women had been brought to Australia from detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island for medical treatment, but have now been told their fortnightly payments will stop.
They also have just three weeks to move out of government-supported accommodation and find somewhere else to live.
The individuals will be moved onto a new visa called a “final departure Bridging E Visa”, or BVE.
The government’s BVE fact sheet says the visa allows people to stay temporarily while they finalise arrangements to leave Australia, and return to a regional processing country or anywhere else they may have a right of residence.
While the visa grants work rights, it does not allow asylum seekers aged over 18 to undertake studies of any kind.
Labor leader Bill Shorten has accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of again targeting the most vulnerable.
“Any person who is sick and ill and who requires Australian assistance in Australia, should get that assistance. That’s not about politics, that’s just about being a decent human being. I say to you Malcolm, we want these people resettled in third-party nations, we want to see the US deal come off, we don’t want to see the people smugglers back in business. But do you really have to make a hero of yourself by mistreating, in a weak and cowardly and cruel fashion, the most vulnerable people in the world?”
The government says it doesn’t believe it’s unreasonable to stop taxpayer support for asylum seekers who refuse to return to offshore detention centres.
Government policy states those who come to Australia illegally by boat will never be settled on Australian shores.
Treasurer Scott Morrison says Mr Shorten doesn’t understand the changes, which are designed to catch out people who have done the wrong thing.
“What we’ve seen from Bill Shorten on this latest episode on border protection is that he just doesn’t get it. Labor never, ever gets it. This is a targeted change to less than 70 people, who gamed the system to get to Australia, now are trying to lock themselves out of being sent back to Nauru or Manus. And to stay here at taxpayers’ expense and in taxpayer-funded housing, and Bill Shorten thinks that’s okay.”
Both Labor and the Greens have hinted they are looking into the possibility of overturning the decision.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale says the move is callous and doesn’t represent the view of all those in parliament.
“Just unspeakable cruelty. Remarkable here, that we have a minister, in secret, saying to members of the community, ‘we are going to take food off your table and kick you out of your homes.’ That is not who Australia is.”
Human rights advocates have slammed the changes, saying those affected haven’t been given any time to prepare.
They maintain that while 100 people will be affected immediately, long-term as many as 400 could feel the impact.
Human Rights Law Centre executive director Hugh de Kretser says all these people want is safety and stability.
“We’ve had babies taking their first steps, speaking their first words, in Australian parks, we’ve got kids who are going to Australian schools, we’ve got families who have been part of our community for years. And now, out of the blue, the government is effectively going to throw them out on the streets in an attempt to force them back to harm. The Prime Minister must stop this. The only sensible, the only decent, thing to do is to let these people stay in the Australian community, let them get on with rebuilding their lives in freedom and in safety.”