Why this family has been disproportionally affected by the coronavirus pandemic

FAMILY: Raj Dahal, Suyog Dahal, 4, and Susan Dahal have been unable to access financial support from the government during the pandemic. Photo: Lachlan Bence
FAMILY: Raj Dahal, Suyog Dahal, 4, and Susan Dahal have been unable to access financial support from the government during the pandemic. Photo: Lachlan Bence

For refugees and asylum seekers, the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have only served to further compound the challenges they face in trying to build new lives in Australia.

As the effects of the pandemic began to be felt across Australia, many people lost their jobs. But while most Australians were eligible for financial assistance for the government, thousands were not.

Susan Dahal is one of these people. Ms Dahal, her husband Raj and two little boys Suyog, 4, and Success, almost 6, have been living in Ballarat for two and a half years.

When Ms Dahal and her husband both became unemployed within weeks of each other, it caused them immense stress - as they are not permanent residents they were unable to access JobKeeper or JobSeeker - and they did not know how they would support themselves.

Amid their desperation, the Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) group supported the family - both financially and emotionally.

"I feel really blessed because without them we don't know how we will survive," Ms Dahal said.

The family is on a temporary five year visa known as a safe haven enterprise visa (SHEV), of which one of the requirements was to move to a regional area.

The family chose Ballarat as they knew several people including Margaret O'Donnell, RAR convener, who visited the family while they were in detention.

The group's members have supported the family since they moved to the area.

"There is not only the support for money but if we need someone that we can talk [to or] we can share our feelings [with]. We can cry, we can laugh. I can't imagine my life without these people," she said.

The Dahals have been in Australia since 2012, but the uncertainty about what will happen when their visas end causes them intense worry.

"Who knows what will happen tomorrow," Ms Dahal said. "We are just like a football".

When the Dahals fled their home country, Nepal, they were unable to bring their two eldest children, son Sheless, 12, and daughter Eunice, 9, who are living with Ms Dahal's mother.

While their youngest children are effectively stateless, it is hoped that if the family can secure a permanent visa in Australia then the eldest children can travel over and the family can be reunited.

BAR Convener Mrs Margaret O'Donnell, UFS CEO Lynne McLennan, Susan Dahal 4 Year old Suyog Dahal Raj Dahal with the $10,000 cheque. Photo: Lachlan Bence

BAR Convener Mrs Margaret O'Donnell, UFS CEO Lynne McLennan, Susan Dahal 4 Year old Suyog Dahal Raj Dahal with the $10,000 cheque. Photo: Lachlan Bence

As restrictions have loosened, Ms Dahal, who studies early childhood education, has recently been able to secure some work at a local childcare centre, while Mr Dahal has been able to begin working as an Uber driver again.

IN OTHER NEWS

This family's story is why Ballarat's UFS Dispensaries decided to donate $10,000 to Ballarat's Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) group this Refugee Week - to support refugees and people seeking asylum during this difficult time.

The injection of funds also comes at a good time for RAR, which has been unable to host its fundraising events.

Chief Executive Lynne McLennan said UFS decided to donate the funds to emergency relief to support those who had missed out on financial support from the government.

"There is a group of people that just completely missed out," Ms McLennan said.

"Some have work rights, so were able to support themselves, but many jobs have disappeared so they have been left with zero income.

It is just astonishing to think that we live in a civil society but people are here with zero money for food or rent. It's just shocking.

Lynne McLennan

"It is just astonishing to think that we live in a civil society but people are here with zero money for food or rent. It's just shocking."

RAR convenor, Margaret O'Donnell, said the group supports numerous people and families across the city - all with their own stories to tell and who face different challenges.

While some visas allow for work and study, other asylum seekers are unable to support themselves, so the group provides a range of support.

The Rural Australians for Refugees group is one of many which support refugees and asylum seekers across Ballarat, including Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children and the House of Welcome.

This story Why this family has been disproportionally affected by the coronavirus pandemic first appeared on The Courier.