Refugee Council of Australia
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The Federal Budget: What it means for refugees and people seeking humanitarian protection

2013-14 budget

Key points

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Program will provide 20,000 places, including up to 500 places over 2012-13 and 2013-14 for the new Community Partnership Settlement
  • Government funding for refugee and migrant settlement services will increase by $64.7 million to $456.6 million, largely as a result of the expansion of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program.
  • The total costs of detention-related services and offshore asylum seeker management will increase by $762 million to $2.97 billion.
  • $19.3 million will be allocated in 2013-14 (and $65.8 million over four years) to enhance regional responses to people smuggling and irregular migration.
  • The Government has introduced a cap of $375 million on funds which can be allocated from the aid budget towards services and support for people seeking asylum in Australia. If the full $375 million is spent in 2013-14, Australia will be the third largest recipient of its own aid.

Refugee and Humanitarian Program

The 2013-14 Refugee and Humanitarian Program will provide 20,000 places. The Refugee (offshore resettlement) component of the program will focus on the Middle East and South West Asia, primarily Afghans and Iraqis, as well as a higher intake of refugees from people in the ‘Australian region’ (presumably Southeast Asia). The program will include resettlement of eligible Afghan locally-engaged employees at risk of harm due to their employment in support of Australia’s mission in The Woman at Risk quota will remain at 12% of the Refugee Program (approximately 1,440 places for women at risk and their children).

Up to 500 places within the existing intake will be dedicated to people sponsored for resettlement under the soon-to-be-introduced Community Partnership Settlement Pilot. It is expected that the pilot program will commence in 2012-13 and over two years will raise $5.3 million through the visa application charges paid to the Government by community groups involved in the

General Migration Program

The 2013-14 Migration Program will remain static at 190,000 places, comprising 128,550 skilled stream places (700 less than in 2012-13), 60,885 family stream places (up 700 places) and 565 special eligibility places (the same as in 2012-13).

The Government explains this increase of 700 places in the family stream as both the result of meeting increased demand for family places that is largely attributed to the increase of skilled migrants who wish to sponsor their partners and other family members as well as a result of the recommendation by the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers. The Expert Panel’s recommendation, however, called for the immediate increase of the family stream by 4,000 places, not

Settlement and Multicultural Affairs

Government funding of settlement services for migrants and refugees will rise by almost 17% from $391.9 million to $456.6 million. This is largely due to increased expenditure on the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program and the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) in light of the expansion of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. In addition to this, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) will spend $95.9 million on administering these programs and on policy advice and program design on settlement matters.

The HSS program has been allocated $134.3 million, an increase of over 50% on the $87.7 million allocated in 2012-13. This allocation includes funding for Complex Case Support services.

$45.5 million will be allocated to the Settlement Grants Program (SGP), an increase of $4.8 million or 12% on the previous Funding for the AMEP will increase from $238.3 million to $264.5 million.

The funding for supervision and welfare services for unaccompanied humanitarian minors has halved from $23.9 million in 2012-13 to $11.6 million in 2013-14. In response to RCOA’s request for information about what this means, DIAC responded: ‘The program is currently funded through a demand driven funding arrangement until the end of 2013-14, and the expected costs in 2013- 14 are subject to changes dependant on arrival rates and Government policy. This will continue to be monitored’.

As part of the Government’s $15 million package of measures to ’empower local communities to embrace the benefits of multiculturalism and maintain cohesive and socially inclusive neighbourhoods’, $9.5 million will be allocated to grants for multicultural affairs during 2013-14.

This represents a dramatic increase on the $732,000 allocated in 2012-13, but is not expected to be maintained over the long-term: funding is slated to drop back to less than $500,000 from 2014- 15 onwards.

Funding for the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program will remain steady at $1.9 million in 2013-14.

The core funding of RCOA will remain at $140,000.

Immigration detention

In 2013-14, DIAC will spend $2.97 billion on detention services inside and outside of The total costs of offshore asylum seeker management (for people seeking asylum arriving by boat) will be $2.87 billion. Of this, $2.46 billion will be paid to contractors (up from $1.71 billion in 2012-13) and DIAC will spend $409.2 million (up from $397 million) on its own service delivery and program planning costs.

The onshore detention network will cost $90.9 million, including $60.2 million for detention contractors and $26.8 million for DIAC’s internal costs. The detention of foreign fishers will cost $12.4 million, of which $9.7 million will go to contractors.

$15.7 million will be allocated within this financial year (2012‑13) towards capital works to expand the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation facility to accommodate an additional 300 ‘irregular maritime arrivals’. On completion, the facility will accommodate up to 430 people.

The Government has also indicated that it will extend the lease of the ‘Alternative Place of Detention’ at Leonora, open the Pontville Detention Centre in Tasmania for at least another year and transform the Curtin detention facility into an ‘Alternative Place of Detention’ to accommodate families with

Status resolution and support for people seeking asylum

Funding for the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme was slightly increased to $3.3 million.

Payments the Australian Red Cross Society for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS) will total $15.8 million, with DIAC allocating an additional $10.5 million in 2013-14. From 2013-14, funding for ASAS, the Community Assistance Support program and Community Detention will be transferred to the Department of Human Services and administered through Centrelink. The Government expects to save $102.6 million over four years through the streamlining of these administration arrangements through the Integrated Service Delivery Framework.

To achieve these savings, funding of $56.3 million (including capital funding of $6.8 million) over four years will be provided to DIAC and the Department of Human Services to enhance monitoring of service delivery functions.

In its work in Visa Compliance and Status Resolution, DIAC will spend $53.8 million on detection onshore, $16.9 million on removals and $26.3 million on status resolution (up from $17.9 million in 2012-13). Contracts for compliance resolution, community care and assistance will equal $9.5 million. DIAC will also spend $30.9 million on policy advice and program design in these areas.

No money has been allocated to DIAC for refugee status determination (RSD) for ‘Offshore Entry Persons’ (people seeking asylum arriving by boat) as responsibility for this area has now been transferred to the Refugee Review Tribunal.

Increased funding of $4.4 million (including capital funding of $1.1 million) will be allocated over four years for the Migration and Refugee Review Tribunals to ‘reflect the level of funding the tribunals require to resolve their expected workload’. The Government expects to reduce the tribunals’ expenditure by $4.5 million in 2015-16 and 2016-17 through operational efficiencies.

DIAC has been allocated $16.6 million over two years for legal expenses associated with refugee status determination for people seeking asylum arriving by boat. This additional funding has been introduced in response to a High Court decision which found that RSD processes for people seeking asylum arriving by boat are judicially reviewable.

In line with the recommendations of the Expert Panel, the Government will commission a comprehensive review of Australia’s RSD system to ‘identify changes to improve the efficacy of the system and to ensure that acceptance outcomes for asylum seeker claims are consistent with our international obligations and with final acceptance rates for comparable cohorts in other countries’.

Border security and disruption activities

The Government has allocated $1.4 billion to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, with approximately 40% allocated to border protection and detection services ($342.2 million allocated for civil maritime surveillance and $259.6 million for border protection and enforcement). An additional $146.6 million has been allocated for border protection to DIAC.

The Government will provide $53.1 million in additional funding in 2013-14 towards ‘strengthening [its] response capability to irregular maritime arrivals’. As part of this funding, the Government will provide $4 million to fund an additional 60 patrol days for the ACV Ocean Protector.

$6.4 million has been allocated to ‘prevention and disruption activities’, including communication campaigns in source Southeast Asian countries, and another $1.9 million will be dedicated to combating people smuggling, particularly in the Middle East, through enhanced passenger screening, engagement strategies, response capabilities and capacity building throughout the Gulf and Middle East

Regional cooperation

In response to recommendations made by the Expert Panel, the Government will provide $65.8 million over four years, including $19.3 million allocated in 2013-14 ($16.2 million for DIAC and $3.2 million for the Attorney-General’s Department) to enhance regional responses to people smuggling and irregular migration through a range of initiatives, including:

  • funding to the UNHCR to increase resettlement referrals in light of the expansion of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program
  • activities to support the reintegration of failed people seeking asylum returning from Australia
  • strengthening legal capacity in source and transit countries, and
  • working with regional governments to limit displacement and manage migration flows.

Total funding allocated to DIAC for activities relating to regional cooperation in 2013-14 will be $52.7 million. This includes $28.5 million for regional cooperation and capacity building projects, $4.4 million for returns and reintegration packages, $1.8 million to support the Regional Support Office established through the Bali Process, $1.05 million to combat people smuggling and $17 million for DIAC’s own policy advice, program design and other costs.

Overseas aid and multilateral assistance

The Government’s commitment to increase spending on foreign aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) has been delayed for another year until 2017-18. Combined with the reduction in aid resulting from the original deferral announced last year, this means that a total of $4.8 billion has been cut from the aid program across forward estimates.

The total aid budget for 2013-14 is $5.6 billion, representing 0.37% of Australia’s GNI. This is an increase of $517.8 million or 0.02% in terms of GNI as compared to 2012-13. The United Nations’ recommended aid allocation is 0.7% of A number of costs relating to provision of accommodation, food, clothing and other basic necessities to people seeking asylum living in community detention or on Bridging Visas during their first 12 months in Australia will now be met through the aid budget.

The Government has introduced a cap of $375 million on funds which can be allocated from the aid budget towards such costs. If the full $375 million is spent in 2013-14, Australia will be the third largest recipient of its own aid, behind Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

$117 million has been allocated to United Nations humanitarian agencies2, including $23 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (up from $19 million) and $20 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (up from $15 million). The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent will receive $28.5 million (up from $22 million).

Spending on aid will increase in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific ($1.10 billion to $1.13 billion), Indonesia and East Asia ($1.28 billion to $1.43 billion) and South and West Asia ($493 million to $513 million).

Spending on aid will decrease in Africa and the Middle East ($527 million to $463 million) and Latin America and the Caribbean ($47 million to $38 million).

Part of Australia’s $82.8 million aid allocation to Burma (Myanmar) will be devoted to strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human rights and advancing the rule of law, including through support for a free and fair election in 2015 and strengthening capacity to deliver human rights training for government agencies and civil society. Australia will also provide assistance to people affected by conflict in Rakhine State and Kachin State.

A key focus area for Australia’s aid program in Palestinian Territories will be provision of basic services to refugee families, including health care services and education.

The budget papers do not provide information on aid expenditure in Africa by country. However, they do note that an additional $2.1 million will be provided over two years to maintain the deployment of ten Australian Federal Police officers to the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan, to assist with law enforcement capacity building.

$436.2 million has been allocated the DIAC in the aid budget. In addition to up to $375 million for domestic expenditure on supporting people seeking asylum, this funding will also be used to:

  • support  displaced persons in Afghanistan and Indonesia
  • increase registrations, RSD and referrals for people seeking asylum in Indonesia
  • implement biometrics within the Sri Lankan passport application process to reduce identity fraud
  • train officials in the region to strengthen their capacity to detect irregular movement, and
  • build capacity in the region to enhance migration and border management.

Part of Australia’s $15.9 million aid allocation to Iraq will be dedicated to human rights training for Iraqi government The Australian Federal Police will continue to provide development, training and mentoring to the Afghan National

Broader human rights measures

$25.5 million has been allocated to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2013-14.

Funding for the Commonwealth Human Rights Education Program will increase to $786,000 in 2013-14, before reducing to $302,000 in 2014-15 and remaining at a similar level over forward estimates.

Funding for implementation of the National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy will be $144,000 in 2013-14.

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