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Home > Reports > The Federal Budget: What it means for refugees and people seeking humanitarian protection

The Federal Budget: What it means for refugees and people seeking humanitarian protection

2015-16 budget

Key points

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Program will provide 13,750 places in 2015-16, the same number as in 2014-15 and 6,250 fewer places than in 2012-13.
  • $5 million has been allocated for settlement services in 2015-16 and $283.1 million has been allocated to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP). Additional funds have been allocated to expand the AMEP to include holders of temporary humanitarian visas for one year.
  • Specific funds have been allocated to assist young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to access education and employment.
  • The total costs of detention and compliance-related programs for people seeking asylum who arrived in Australia by boat will be $2.30 billion in 2015-16.
  • Overseas aid has been cut by $1 billion.

Refugee and Humanitarian Program

The 2014-15 Refugee and Humanitarian Program will provide 13,750 places. A minimum of 11,000 places will be available under the Refugee and Special Humanitarian Program components of the program, including 1,000 places for the Woman at Risk program. The program will remain at 13,750 until 2016-17 before increasing to 16,250 in 2017-18 and 18,750 in 2018-19.

Temporary Protection Visa and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa grants to refugees who arrived in Australia without visas will be in addition to the 13,750 grants under the Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

General Migration Program

The 2015-16 Migration Program will remain static at 190,000 places, with 128,550 allocated to the skilled stream, 60,885 to the family stream 565 under special eligibility.

The changes to the composition of the family stream proposed in the 2014-15 budget, whereby additional partner and child places would be made available as a result of the abolition of non-contributory parent visas and a range of other family visas, have been abandoned.

Settlement Services

The Settlement Services allocation within the Department of Social Services (DSS) budget includes current Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS), Settlement Grants and National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) services, as well as grants for peak bodies. Total funding for this area in 2015-16 will be $149.5 million, an increase of $7.4 million on 2014-15 spending.

Funding for Adult Migrant Education Program (AMEP) in 2015-16 will be $283.1 million, with a target of assisting 60,000 migrants and humanitarian entrants. $14.5 million has been allocated for one year only to expand the AMEP to include refugees who hold temporary substantive visas (including Temporary Protection Visas, Save Haven Enterprise Visas and Temporary Humanitarian Concern Visas).

$15.8 million has been allocated in 2015-16 for supervision and welfare for unaccompanied humanitarian minors, a reduction of $3.2 million on 2014-15. The Government expects this allocation to drop much further in 2016-17 to just $3.9 million.

As part of the Youth Employment Strategy within the Government’s new Growing Jobs and Small Business package, $22.1 million has been allocated over four years to support young people from refugee backgrounds and other vulnerable young migrants to ‘build skills and confidence to equip them to participate in education or work’.

Immigration detention and compliance (onshore and offshore)

The budget papers reveal that, in the 2014-15 financial year, the Government spent $2.91 billion on detention and compliance-related programs for people seeking asylum who arrived in Australia by boat. This includes costs relating to detention in Australia and offshore and support services for people seeking asylum living in the community. In 2015-16, these costs will total $2.30 billion and are projected to decrease significantly from the 2016-17 financial year onwards.

The total costs of offshore processing of people seeking asylum who arrived in Australia by boat will be $810.8 million in 2015-16. This includes $1.1 million for returns, removals and reintegration assistance packages.

$389.6 million has been allocated over 2014-15 and 2015-16 for resettlement arrangements for people seeking asylum who are processed offshore and found to be refugees and removal arrangements for those found not to be refugees. This includes $141.9 million in capital funding to provide new infrastructure to support resettlement.

$1.49 billion has been allocated to detention and compliance-related programs for people seeking asylum who arrived by boat and are currently residing in Australia. This includes $1.12 billion for closed detention, community detention and support for people seeking asylum living in the community; and $1.1 million for returns, removals and reintegration assistance packages.

An additional $293.2 million has been allocated for detention and compliance-related programs for groups other than people seeking asylum who arrived in Australia by boat.

Three additional detention facilities have been closed: Phosphate Hill and Construction Camp on Christmas Island and the Bladin Alternative Place of Detention in Darwin. By July 2016, the North West Point facility on Christmas Island will transition to a contingency facility for use as a reception processing site as required.

Status resolution and support for people seeking asylum

$26.2 million has been allocated in 2015-16 to continue the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (now part of the Status Resolution Support Services program) for people seeking asylum who arrived with valid visas. The Government claims that these expenses will be partially offset by not renewing the Refugee Council of Australia’s core funding of $140,000 per year.

$3.0 million has been allocated to provide immigration advice and application assistance to people seeking asylum. It is unclear if this allocation includes only those services provided under the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme to people seeking asylum who arrived with valid visas, or whether it also includes services provided under the Primary Application Assistance Scheme to people seeking asylum who arrived by boat and have been identified as being vulnerable.

Border security, disruption activities and regional cooperation

From 1 July 2015, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service will merge into a single agency, the Australian Border Force. The Government expects to save $270.1 million over four years from 2015-16 through this measure. Command of Operation Sovereign Borders will transition to the Australian Border Force by the end of 2015.

$12.5 million has been allocated under the Attorney-General’s Department to extend the activities of the Operation Sovereign Borders Disruption Deterrence Task Group for a further two years. The Task Group, which is a joint effort involving the Australian Federal Police, Australian Signals Directorate, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Crime Commission, focuses on intelligence gathering, disruptions and joint policing operations.

No further funding has been allocated for the Special Envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders.

  • $39.9 million has been allocated over four years from 2015-16 to continue anti-people smuggling strategic communications campaigns in Australia and overseas.
  • $74.3 million has been allocated over five years from 2014-15 to increase the availability of the Australian Customs Vessel Ocean Shield for disruption of maritime people smuggling operations. The availability of the Ocean Shield will increase from 180 days per year to 300 days per year in 2015-16 and 2017-18 before decreasing back to 180 days from 2018-19.
  • $4.7 million has been allocated in 2015-16 only to continue international engagement activities to prevent and disrupt maritime people smuggling. Australian Border Force officials will continue to be stationed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
  • $53.8 million has been allocated over two years from 2015-16 to extend Operation Resolute, the Australian Defence Force’s border protection operation.
  • $86.9 million has been allocated to regional cooperation and capacity building activities to ‘strengthen the migration and border management capabilities of partner governments’. This will include activities to prevent and deter irregular movement, support harmonisation of asylum systems across the region and support international organisations providing services for irregular migrants intercepted en route to Australia.
  • $1.3 million has been allocated in 2015-16 to the Regional Support Office established through the Bali Process but no further allocations are included in forward estimates.

Overseas aid and multilateral assistance

The total aid budget for 2015-16 is $4.05 billion (down from $5.03 billion in 2014-15), representing 0.25% of Australia’s Gross National Income (GNI). The United Nations’ recommended aid allocation is 0.7% of GNI.

$328.9 million has been allocated to humanitarian, emergencies and refugee-related aid.

Country-specific aid administered by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) will decrease across all regions:

  • Aid to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific will decrease from $954.6 million to $911.3 million.
  • Aid to Indonesia and East Asia will decrease from $1.08 billion to $688.6 million (Indonesia, which last year was the largest individual recipient of Australian aid, has had its DFAT-administered aid cut by 40%).
  • Aid to South and West Asia will decrease from $354.9 million to $219.2 million.
  • Aid to Africa and the Middle East will decrease from $143.0 million to $52.9 million (with Sub-Saharan Africa the hardest hit, losing 70% of its DFAT-administered aid).
  • Aid to Latin America and the Caribbean has been phased out entirely, as planned.

There have been significant changes to aid allocations for key refugee-producing countries. DFAT-administered aid will drop from $130.9 million to $78.5 million in Afghanistan and from $70.1 million to $42.1 million in Burma. Aid to Iraq has been phased out entirely, as planned.

Among the countries which did not receive a cut in DFAT-administered aid are Nauru ($21.2 million) and Cambodia ($52.4 million).

$106.3 million has been allocated to United Nations humanitarian agencies(a cut of 5% compared to the 2014-15), including $20.0 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and $19.3 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent will receive $25.3 million.

A new $50 million Gender Equality Fund has been created to strengthen gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in our region.

Other measures

From 2015-16, the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA) will merge with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the OMARA Advisory Board will be replaced with a non-remunerated independent reference group. This measure is expected to save $1.0 million over four years.

Lawyers providing migration advice will no longer be required to register with the OMARA. This measure is projected to save $8.2 million over four years.

$23.1 million has been allocated to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2015-16, a cut of $4.1 million compared to the 2014-15 budget allocation.

Additional country-specific overseas development assistance is administered by other Government departments. However, limited detail is provided in the budget papers regarding what this assistance entails.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

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