Marist’s winning fight for asylum seekers’ city travel

A campaign led by a Marist priest will see asylum seekers in Sydney given travel concession cards which will help them access services and support.

Fr Jim Carty led a campaign by the Sydney Alliance to get the concession for newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers living in the community.

For almost six months, members of the Sydney Alliance and other people collected hundreds of thousands of used tickets stubs, as well as receipts for travel on smartcards.

These were then sent to the NSW Premier and Transport Minister as part of the campaign, which also saw thousands of emails sent in support of asylum seekers being granted the cards.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced the travel concession move last week.

The equivalent of a gold pension concession card, it means eligible asylum seekers will be able to travel across Sydney’s transport network at a capped price of A$2.50 per day.

Some 7000 asylum seekers living in Sydney will be helped by the concession from January 1.

Unable to work and receiving less only A$412 a fortnight in benefit income, most asylum seekers in Sydney are living below the poverty line.

By the time they have paid for food and rent for frequently overcrowded accommodation, there is nothing left over for public transport in order to access the assistance they need.

Fr Carty, who is Coordinator of the Marist Asylum Seeker and Refugee Services, applauded Premier Baird’s decision to grant the concession.

“NGO services offering asylum seekers assistance, particularly with health and medical care, trauma rehabilitation, language classes and other vital services, are spread out across the city,” he said.

“But the cost of getting to each of these services and receiving the help they need made accessing these services extremely difficult and simply added to the stress of what are already traumatised people.”

“It is also important for asylum seekers, especially those with families, to be able to access food banks such as Oz Harvest,” Fr Carty said.

The priest has worked with refugees and asylum seekers for more than 35 years.


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