June 11, 2015

More Clients, More Services: Mercy House of Welcome Adelaide Responding to Growing Needs of Asylum Seekers

This time last year we reported on the opening of Mercy House of Welcome Adelaide. At that time about 170 people had attended the house and six new clients were joining each fortnight.

Law student volunteers assisting clients of the House of Welcome

Today there are over 350 clients on our database. We average between 35 and 40 clients a day for English classes and have over 30 volunteers on our books to run these classes. Other clients come for material or legal assistance. The majority are still Hazara or Iranian with several Africans from Chad and Sudan.

Applying for Temporary Protection Visas
Since the establishment of Mercy House of Welcome we have had much broader issues to contend with. Several people come every day for help with filling in their Freedom of Information (FOI) forms to get access to their Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) files. When applying for Temporary Protection Visas, it is essential that asylum seekers give exactly the same information as when they first arrived. The only way to do this is by access to the recording of their initial interviews. Local law students kindly volunteered to help our clients apply for this vital information.

Mercy House of Welcome has two volunteers to assist clients with filling in the forms for Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) and it is hoped that we can attract more volunteers to assist, as the workload will no doubt increase. The Minister for Immigration has stated that it will probably take at least 3 years to process the backlog of 29,000 asylum seekers on Bridging Visas.

Helping with dental treatment
Dental assistance is another major issue that has emerged since we opened. Because our clients do not have a Concession Card they can’t gain access to services such as the Dental Hospital’s Community Outreach program. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will pay for extractions or treatment for infections, however, nothing else. Mercy House of Welcome will be meeting with the Manager of the Community Outreach Dental Service and other NGOs to try and find a solution.

Gardening Bee at the Mercy House of Welcome

Mercy House of Welcome continues to provide basic food supplies and material assistance in the form of clothes and household goods. These are sourced through donations. We help clients to organise medical and other appointments, to find accommodation, deal with utilities bills, fines and insurance. During school holidays we also offer activities for the children.

While the needs of asylum seekers continue to grow, it has been heart warming to witness the wonderful response of the local communities: offering their time, skills, services, food and goods to help people in severe need.

Messages to: Margaret Coulter - Development Officer

For more information regarding Mercy Works, visit our website

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