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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

2014-15 budget

Key points

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Program will provide 13,750 places, reduced from 20,000 in 2012-13 but remaining the same as the revised 2013-14 Program allocation.
  • Settlement services funding via the Department of Social Services will be $142.8 million in 2014-15.
  • The total costs for onshore detention-related services, community release, status resolution and offshore asylum seeker management will be $2.96 billion.
  • $957.9 million has been allocated to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for border enforcement.
  • The Government has reduced aid spending by $7.6 billion over five years, starting from 2013-14.

Refugee and Humanitarian Program

The 2014-15 Refugee and Humanitarian Program will provide 13,750 places. 11,000 places will be reserved for refugee and humanitarian entrants offshore, including 4,000 reserved for people applying through the Special Humanitarian Program.

There will be 1,000 places allocated under the Woman at Risk program (down from 1,673 allocated in 2012-13).

Temporary 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 2014-15 Migration Program will remain static at 190,000 places and maintain 128,550 skilled stream places, 60,885 family stream places and 565 special eligibility places.

The changes to the Program will be via the Family Stream: additional partner and child places will be made available as a result of the cessation of new applications from the other family and parent (non‑contributory) places.

The allocation of 4,000 additional Family Stream places for people found to be owed protection in Australia to reunite with immediate family members — a result of the recommendation by the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers in 2012 – has been removed.

Settlement services

The Settlement Services allocation within the Department of Social Services (DSS) budget includes current Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS), Settlement Grants Program (SGP) and National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) services, as well as grants for peak bodies. Total funding for this area has increased to $142.8 million, due to the rollover of $16.2 million in funds from 2013-14 for HSS services for refugee and humanitarian entrants granted visas in 2013-14.

Almost all SGP services which are funded until 30 June 2014 will get a six-month extension. Only a small number of projects which have reached a natural end, where there is no ongoing need for services, will not be extended. SGP services will not be required to seek an extension themselves, as the extension of SGP services will be initiated by DSS. This extension will give services an opportunity to apply for funding in the next round.

HSS funding will continue in 2014-15, in line with the three-year renewal of HSS contracts which took place in April 2014.

Funding for Adult Migrant Education Program (AMEP) in 2014-15 will be $236.0 million, with a target of assisting 57,000 migrants and humanitarian entrants. This is $28.5 million less than the estimated budget of 2013-14, but $50.6 million more than the revised budget for last year. An evaluation of AMEP will be undertaken over June-October 2014, conducted in accordance with the Department of Finance expenditure review principles.

The Government will provide $19 million in 2014-15 and $16 million in 2015-2016 for the supervision and welfare of unaccompanied humanitarian minors. This is an increase from last year’s $11.6 million.

The Government will provide $85.2 million in 2014-15 to provide support services to people who arrived by boat and were found to be owed protection (people owed protection but with some form of temporary substantive visa). The allocation will gradually increase each year, with a total of $574 million to be allocated over five years (beginning in 2013-14). The majority of the funds will be allocated through DSS.

This measure will provide temporary visa holders with access to torture and trauma support and Complex Case Support where appropriate and will provide the full range of employment services support through Job Services Australia to assist them in gaining employment. These temporary visa holders will be subject to mainstream mutual obligation requirements, such as Job Search or Work for the Dole.

The Diversity and Social Cohesion Program (DSCP) is being rolled into the multicultural affairs activities of DSS’ Strengthening Communities Program. The allocation for this program in 2014-15 is $27.3 million, a reduction of $33 million on the funds allocated in 2013-14. This reduction is largely the result of the ceasing of the Building Multicultural Communities Program and the Empowering Local Communities Program.

Immigration detention and compliance (onshore and offshore)

In 2014-15, the Australian Government will spend $2.963 billion on detention and community placements services inside and outside of Australia. The total costs of offshore asylum seeker management (for people seeking asylum arriving by boat) will be $826.1 million. Over $1.85 billion has been allocated in 2014-15 for detention services and community placements of people seeking asylum within Australia. This includes funding for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS) and Community Assistance Support (CAS) services for people seeking asylum who arrived by boat.

The Government seeks to save $77.5 million over five years from 2013‑14 by renegotiating and consolidating offshore processing centre service provider contracts. Over $767.9 million has been awarded for 2014-15 to contractors for offshore processing services.

The Government will close nine detention facilities (Aqua and Lilac on Christmas Island; Curtin; Darwin Airport Lodge; Inverbrackie; Leonora; Northern; Pontville; Port Augusta; and Scherger), seeking to save $283.3 million over four years.

The Government will also extend the leases for the Blaydin and Wickham Point detention facilities in the Northern Territory as well as upgrade some remaining facilities. Savings are partially offset by expenditure associated with increasing cooperation between the Commonwealth and the Australian Federal Police and State and Territory Police services.

The Government will provide $217.6 million over five years (including $28.3 million in capital) to upgrade infrastructure on Christmas Island in order to support the rapid transfer (within 48 hours) of people arriving by boat and subject to transfer to Offshore Processing Centres. This measure includes funding for health infrastructure which will reduce the need to transfer people to the Australian mainland for assessment and treatment of health issues.

The Government has allocated $2.6 million in 2014-15 to fund access to full-time school education for all school-aged asylum seeker children on Christmas Island.

The Government seeks to achieve savings of $18.6 million over four years by expanding the Offshore Biometrics Program beyond the 20 countries where it currently operates and introducing user-pays arrangements for visa services and biometric collection services with third-party service delivery partners. The Government will provide $2.0 million in capital funding over two years for biometric systems software and equipment to expand the program.

Status resolution and support for people seeking asylum

$149.9 million has been allocated over five years to fund a range of reforms to compliance, removal and network management arrangements for the ‘legacy caseload’ of people seeking asylum who arrived in Australia by boat before 19 July 2013.

$3 million has been allocated to the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS). The Government expects to achieve savings of $2.1 million over four years by removing IAAAS support at the review stage for people seeking asylum who arrive in Australia with valid visas (people seeking asylum who arrive without valid visas will no longer have access to IAAAS at any stage).

$27.8 million has been allocated to ASAS and CAS services for people seeking asylum who arrive with valid visas.

The Government will introduce a Mutual Obligations Community Engagement Activities Pilot for 300 to 400 people who arrived by boat and who hold a Bridging Visa. The Pilot is intended to provide participants with skills to enhance work readiness if they are found to be owed protection and will be delivered in three streams: workplace readiness activities; community improvement activities; and community volunteering activities.

From 1 July 2015, all Commonwealth merits review tribunals (with the exception of the Veterans Review Board) will be amalgamated into a single body. The amalgamated body will take on the functions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, the Migration Review Tribunal-Refugee Review Tribunal and the Classification Review Board.

Border security, disruption activities and regional cooperation

The Government has allocated $1.2 billion to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS), the vast majority of which ($957.9 million) will be dedicated to border enforcement.

$3.7 million has been allocated in 2014-15 only for international engagement activities to prevent and disrupt maritime people smuggling. ACBPS officials will be stationed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

$6.4 million has been allocated over two years to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for anti-people smuggling initiatives, including a dedicated position in Sri Lanka, the continuation of the Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues and annual Bali Process meetings.

$60.3 million has been allocated over two years until June 2015 to Operation Resolute, the Australian Defence Force’s border protection operation.

$1.0 million has been allocated over 2013-14 and 2014-15 for the activities of the Special Envoy for Operation Sovereign Borders.

Two retired Bay Class vessels will be donated to Malaysia in 2015-16 to assist regional efforts to combat people smuggling.

$78.8 million, plus an additional $13.2 million in departmental expenses, 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.

As part of this funding, $86.8 million will be allocated over three years from 2013-14 for regional cooperation arrangements in Indonesia which will focus on supporting people seeking asylum.

$1.8 million has been allocated in 2014-15 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 2014-15 is $5.0 billion, representing 0.32% of Australia’s Gross National Income (GNI). The United Nations’ recommended aid allocation is 0.7% of GNI.

Following the recommendation of the Commission of Audit, the Government will no longer aim to increase the aid budget to 0.5% of GNI. Instead, the aid budget will remain static for 2014-15 and 2015-16 then increase in line with the Consumer Price Index from 2016-17 onwards. This will result in a reduction of $7.6 billion in aid spending over five years, starting from 2013-14.

$338.6 million has been allocated to humanitarian, emergencies and refugee expenditure in 2014-15, up from $264.2 million in 2013-14. This includes an increase of the Emergency Fund from $90 million to $120 million.

The majority of the $375 million diverted from the overseas aid budget last year to meet the costs of supporting people seeking asylum in Australia has been restored. Only $4.6 million will continue to be allocated for this purpose until July 2014, after which time the diversion of funds from the aid budget will cease.

Spending on aid will increase in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific ($1.06 billion in 2013-14 to $1.15 billion in 2014-15, with around two-thirds of this increase, or $58 million, allocated to Papua New Guinea alone). Spending will remain relatively steady in Indonesia and East Asia ($1.34 billion to $1.32 billion) and South and West Asia ($435.9 million to $438.8 million). Spending will decrease in Africa and the Middle East ($344.8 million to $252.4 million) and in Latin America and the Caribbean ($29.6 million to $21.1 million). The Government intends to phase out aid programs for to Latin America and the Caribbean entirely.

There have been several significant changes to aid allocations for key refugee-producing countries. Aid to Burma will increase from $81.4 million to $90.million, while aid to Afghanistan will drop from $149.3 million to $134.2 million. Aid to Iraq is being phased out, dropping from $4.1 million to $300,000.

$111.9 million has been allocated to United Nations humanitarian agencies(up from $104.8 million), including $21.0 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (up from $19.0 million) and $20.3 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (up from $19.8 million). The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent will receive $26.6 million (up from $22.0 million).

The Displaced Persons Program administered by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will cease from 2013-14.

Broader human rights measures

$27.2 million has been allocated to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2014-15.

Funding for the Commonwealth Human Rights Education Program (about $300,000 per year) will cease.

The Government seeks to save $400,000 per year by reducing the number of special-purpose Commissioners from the current seven to six.

Other measures

From July 2015, the Government will combine the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to create a single agency, the Australian Border Force.

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

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