A Human Right

Article 23(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights bestows upon all earthly mortals a fundamental right to employment.

“Everyone,” it reads, “has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protect against unemployment”.

Everyone except boat people, apparently.

In November 2012, the Labor party decided that asylum seekers arriving after August that year (and subsequently released into the community) would not be allowed to work.

The aim, as expected, was to deter those contemplating making the voyage. The result? An upsurge in boats.

Now, thousands of asylum seekers in our neighbourhoods are condemned to a life in limbo. They will develop expensive mental health issues and meanwhile contribute nothing to our economy. And, after an indefinite amount of time, 90 per cent of them will eventually be given the refugee tick anyway.

Professor William Maley thinks the approach is wholly unwarranted and, quote, “stratospherically dumb”. Refugee advocate Fabia Claridge categorically agrees, accusing the government of forcing asylum seekers to “beg, borrow or steal, or live 20 people to a house.”

Said, Babak and Janni are some of the luckier ones — they aren’t affected by this rule. Even though they are asylum seekers, their visa conditions permit them to work. But life still isn’t easy. Before you go, make sure you listen to their stories.


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