Do asylum seekers get more Centrelink benefits than pensioners?

There are so many misleading rumours and “facts” circulating regarding asylum seekers and the benefits they get from the government.

One hoax email in particular is doing the rounds telling people that “illegal immigrants/refugees” receive thousands more in welfare payments than Australian pensioners.

Emails like this are completely fabricated and made up purely to conjure up negative sentiment towards asylum seekers.

First of all, refugees are not illegal immigrants. It has never been illegal in Australia to arrive on shore without a visa seeking asylum. In fact it’s one of the rights within the UN’s declarations on refugees which Australia helped to write.

When an asylum seeker arrives in Australia, they do not get any Centrelink benefits. While their status is being processed, and if they meet certain criteria, they can be eligible for financial support from the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, administered through the Red Cross. This amount is 89% of the basic Centrelink allowance. This means approximately $405.84 per fortnight – $260 less than a pensioner’s.

Once an asylum seeker is recognised as a genuine refugee, after a long and highly scrutinized process, he/she is given permanent residency and is then entitled to the same Centrelink, schooling and health benefits as everyone else. No more, no less.

The normal Centrelink welfare payment is $456 per fortnight, for a refugee with permanent residency and an Australian-born person. A pensioner in Australia receives $671.90. Over $200 more each fortnight. Even with family/parenting benefits, a refugee’s benefits would still be less than a pensioner’s income.

For asylum seekers to qualify for any payment under the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, they must have lodged an application for a visa 6 months before, not be in detention, and not get any other payment or benefit.

To obtain permanent residency as a refugee, the person has to prove that he/she is a genuine refugee fleeing persecution, go through character, security and medical tests, and sign an Australian Values Statement.

‘Boat people’ are asylum seekers. Refugees are asylum seekers who have been approved and given a visa. None of them are ‘illegal immigrants’.

The above facts come from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Refugee Council of Australia, and from the Red Cross. A lot more reliable than a random email from a friend of a friend. (Source: David Koch blog)