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Refugee Council of Australia
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Family separation and family reunion for refugees: The issues

Recommendations

Recommendation 1: Develop a humanitarian family reunion program

The Australian Government should develop a separate Humanitarian Family Reunion Program, outside of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program and Migration Program. This should be developed in consultation with former refugee community members and organisations, peak bodies and relevant service providers.

Recommendation 2: Enhance access to family reunion

In the absence of a separate Humanitarian Family Reunion Program, the Australian Government should enhance refugee and humanitarian entrants’ access to family reunion by:

  • waiving application fees or at least introducing application fee concessions for refugee and humanitarian entrants sponsoring family members under the family stream of the Migration Program
  • expanding the availability of no-interest loans to assist proposers in meeting the costs of airfares and/or application fees
  • introducing greater flexibility in documentation and evidence requirements under both the Refugee and Humanitarian Program and the family stream of the Migration Program
  • reviewing eligibility requirements under the family stream of the Migration Program which effectively excludes applicants from refugee backgrounds
  • prioritising processing of family members at immediate risk, and
  • ensuring access to settlement services on arrival and exempting family from the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period.

The Australian Government should consult with stakeholders to develop a process for assessing eligibility for concessions. There should be consultation with refugee communities, practitioners involved in providing support with family reunion applications and other relevant stakeholders to develop a process for assessing eligibility for the concessions referred to above.

Recommendation 3: Remove restrictions on family reunion for those who come by boat

Current restrictions on access to family reunion opportunities for Protection Visa holders who arrived by boat (including changes to processing priorities) be immediately removed.

If the above recommendation is not implemented, people whose applications have been affected by the introduction of retrospective changes to processing priorities be given the opportunity to withdraw their applications and receive a full refund of application fees.

Recommendation 4: Restore funding for migration advice

The Australian Government should restore funding for professional migration advice services to support refugee and humanitarian entrants in lodging family reunion applications.

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