Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia to serve refugees and people seeking asylum in need during the COVID-19 pandemic

The situation at our JRS centres in Western Sydney:
COVID-19  is having significant impacts on the Australian community: on physical health, on social connectedness and mental health, and livelihoods.

We share in the pain and anxiety that this is causing for all.

The more-than-3000 women, children, and men that JRS Australia serves in NSW are feeling these impacts especially hard. If nothing changes, the situation will be catastrophic.

Ali* came to Arrupe Place on Friday asking for fresh food, and money for rent. Ali had lost his casual job as a driver for a private car company. Ali has a young family with three children, and is worried about how they will survive.

Like all other people seeking asylum, Ali and his family have no access to any form of safety net in Australia, including under the government’s newly announced welfare package.

Amongst the women, children, and men who are most vulnerable, many do not have work rights or cannot work for health reasons, are at acute risk of homelessness, are dealing with pre-existing physical or mental health illnesses, are immuno-suppressed, and do not have access to fundamental services such as Medicare.

Many were already relying on emergency support from charities such as JRS Australia.

Azima*, a single mother without work rights and Medicare, told JRS Australia staff that she and her family will be at risk of destitution if foodbank and emergency payments cease to operate.

“I cannot buy food at the shops…I’m not sure what to do if I cannot come here.”

JRS Australia’s foodbank supports close to 400 families and individuals with staple foods such as rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes and chickpeas, long-life, milk and hygiene items such as nappies, tampons, and toilet paper.

We provide emergency payments to hundreds of individuals, including children to pay for rent and life-saving medications.

These individuals do not have access to Centrelink, Medicare, the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS).

Both are running on close to empty.

What we are doing.
JRS Australia is committed to reducing community transmission of the COVID-19 virus. We take seriously the responsibility to prioritise the health and safety of  staff, volunteers, clients, and partners.

At the same time, we are working hard to ensure that we can meet the critical needs of the people we serve  – in the absence of any federal government support.

This is a difficult and shifting balance.

For now, our focus is on ensuring that the people in greatest need have access to food, emergency financial support, and access to our specialist case work team.

We are also speaking to NGOs, Catholic, and cross-sector partners about the need for the federal and state governments to step in and support people seeking asylum with timely access to Medicare, work rights, and a safety net for those who are particularly vulnerable.

COVID-19 does not discriminate, nor should we.

More on this soon.

How can you help?

(1) Please donate money to JRS Australia’s Emergency Cash Appeal. This money will go towards replenishing our foodbank, paying for medication, and rent, and supporting women out of domestic violence situations. To donate, please call (02) 9356 3888 or email or click here.

(2) Please donate essential food and hygiene items to JRS Australia’s foodbank. To donate, please call (02) 9098 9336 or email

(3) Please sign up to volunteer. We need people to pack food, act as drivers, and make phone calls. To volunteer, please call (02) 9098 9336 or email

(4) Please follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for updates on the situation for refugees and people seeking asylum and our response.

In solidarity,

Carolina Gottardo and the JRS Australia team

Carolina Gottardo
Director, JRS Australia

*Names changed to protect their identity

Support us here.

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