Joining forces to support asylum seekers

Safe Asylum Social Support co-ordinator Bel St Clair and volunteer Patsy Skinner, of Riverside. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER

Safe Asylum Social Support co-ordinator Bel St Clair and volunteer Patsy Skinner, of Riverside. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER

A FRIENDLY face and a chat over coffee can make all the difference to people isolated in a new community.

Launceston-based group Safe Asylum Social Support aims to bridge the gap between asylum seekers on bridging visas and the Northern Tasmanian community.

Organiser Bel St Clair, who also co-ordinates political group Safe Asylum, said she was approached by Red Cross to run the service, which is apolitical, non-denominational and does not receive funding.

"They asked us whether we may be able to help in terms of having support socially and those sorts of things," Ms St Clair said.

"We've only just started up, so we've got four or five asylum seekers who we're supporting and about 15 volunteers."

Ms St Clair said volunteers could help people with everything from getting furniture to seeing Tasmania.

Volunteer Patsy Skinner said she joined out of concern for the plight of asylum seekers in Australia.

People on bridging visas are unable to work, receive only a small allowance from the government and are ineligible for many support services.

"I feel like I'd like to give them a connection with where they're living and give them a chance to not be isolated," Ms Skinner said.

Volunteers with SASS have to undertake cultural awareness training and sign off on a code of conduct.

They may be asked to undertake a police check.

For more information, search Safe Asylum Social Support on Facebook, email sasslaunceston@gmail.com or text 0400 231 288.

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