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

2016-17 budget

Key points

  • No change to the number of places in the Refugee and Humanitarian Program beyond what has previously been announced by the Federal Government
  • Settlement service funding, as previously announced, will increase in 2016-17 by $122 million on current year’s forecast, largely to support refugees arriving as part of the 12,000 additional resettlement places for Syrian and Iraqi
  • $10.9 million will be allocated over three years to support the economic and social participation of humanitarian entrants, including $5.2 million set aside for a new career pathways pilot program supporting newly-arrived, skilled humanitarian entrants with vocational level English
  • Three detention facilities will close – the Maribyrnong centre in Melbourne, Perth Immigration Residential Housing and the Blaxland facility within the Villawood detention centre – and the lease of the Wickham Point detention near Darwin facility will not be renewed in November Christmas Island’s North West Point detention centre will shift to contingency mode in 2018.

Refugee and Humanitarian Program

Plans for the Refugee and Humanitarian Program remain as previously.The annual Refugee and Humanitarian Program will remain at 13,750 places in 2016-17, increasing to 16,250 places in 2017-18 and 18,750 places in 2018-19. The additional allocation of 12,000 resettlement places for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, announced by the Federal Government in September, will continue to proceed, with no time limit set on the completion of this allocation.

$12.1 million will be provided over two years ($7.4 million in 2016-17 and $4.7 million in 2017-18) for the supervision and welfare of unaccompanied humanitarian minors, supporting the settlement of humanitarian entrants under the age of 18 who arrive in Australia without a guardian. This is not a new measure but continues a program funded in the 2014-15 Budget.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) spending in 2016-17 on Refugee and Humanitarian Assistance is $153.4 million (down from $175.7 million in 2015-16.)

General migration program

In 2016-17, up to 190,00 places will be available for permanent migration – including up to 128,550 places for skilled migration (no change on 2015-16), 57,400 for family migration (a cut of 3485 places on 2015-16) and 565 under the Special Eligibility stream (no change). At least 3485 places will be provided for child category migrants, continuing the transition of the child category to a fully demand-driven model by 2019-20 as recommended by the Interdepartmental Committee on Intercountry Adoption.

The Government will achieve efficiencies of $180.0 million over three years from 2017-18 by ‘reforming the visa and migration framework, improving automation in visa processing, providing self-service options and using more sophisticated assessment capabilities’.

DIBP spending in 2016-17 on Migration $262.8 million and Visas $366.6 million.

Settlement services

The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) will be redesigned to improve client participation, English language proficiency and employment outcomes. Key changes include offering additional hours of English tuition to eligible clients, introducing better monitoring of improvements in client English skills and establishing two new AMEP service streams – Social English and Pre-Employment English. The cost of the measure will be met within the existing resources of the Department of Education and Training.

$10.9 million will be allocated over three years from 2016-17 ($3.8 million in 2016-17, $3.5 million in 2017-18 and $3.6 million 2018-19) to provide additional support to recently arrived humanitarian migrants ‘to strengthen their sense of belonging to Australian society and to increase their social and economic participation’. Of this, $5.7 million will increase the number of Community Hubs – a programme that helps migrants and humanitarian entrants connect with their communities.

The remaining $5.2 million is set aside for a new career pathways pilot program supporting newly-arrived, skilled humanitarian entrants with vocational level English proficiency. The pilot will provide targeted support to help humanitarian entrants find employment in jobs that match their Department of Social Services spending in 2016-17 on settlement services is $264.1 million (up from $141.9 million in 2015-16).

Department of Education and Training spending on AMEP is $299.7 million (up from $293.3 million) and on Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) Program $125.4 million (down from $134.8 million).

Immigration detention, status resolution and offshore processing

Three immigration detention facilities – Melbourne’s Maribyrnong Immigration Detention Centre, Perth Immigration Residential Housing and the Blaxland facility within Villawood Immigration Detention Centre – will close, saving $68.2 million over five years from 2015-16. The lease of the Wickham Point facility near Darwin will not be renewed beyond November. The North West Point facility on Christmas Island will be put into contingency from 1 January 2018, joining the Phosphate Hill and Construction Camp facilities on Christmas Island, which were put into contingency in 2015-16.

Commonwealth-owned land at Maribyrnong and Villawood will be sold to raise revenue but the Department will not reveal the expected revenue ‘for commercial confidentiality reasons’. The Budget Papers note that 17 detention facilities have closed since 2013, with the number of people in detention dropping from 6400 in September 2013 to fewer than 1700 in April 2016.

$39.8 million is to be allocated in 2016-17 to continue the provision of asylum seeker assistance to support eligible people seeking asylum who entered Australia on valid visas.

An additional allocation of $61.5 million in 2016-17 will support the operation of regional processing centres and settlement outcomes for people found to be refugees in these centres. This includes payments on increased taxes and charges.

DIBP spending in 2016-17 on Onshore Compliance and Detention is $1.691 billion (down from$1.712 billion in 2015-16) and on Offshore Detention and Offshore Processing $880.5 million (down from $1.078 billion).

Border enforcement and regional cooperation

$55.4 million will be provided in 2016-17 to continue funding the Regional Cooperation Arrangements in Indonesia, to support ‘regional partners to manage their asylum seeker populations’.

$9.1 million is to be allocated over two years from 2016-17 for international engagement activities to prevent and disrupt maritime people Australian Border Force officials will continue to be stationed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, to assist agencies ‘in source and transit countries to better address the threat of people smuggling’.

$2.2 million in continued funding will be provided to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to maintain outreach offices across Indonesia, assisting the Indonesian Government to monitor migration flows and coordinate its responses to irregular maritime arrivals.

$1.3 million will be provided annually to continue funding the Regional Support Office which supports the work in the Asia-Pacific region of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime and Regional Cooperation In the Foreign Affairs portfolio, $9.2 million has been allocated over four years ($2.3 million a.) to continue the People Smuggling Taskforce, the Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking and Ministerial and senior officials meetings of the Bali Process.

DIBP spending in 2016-17 on Border Enforcement is $1.044 billion (up from $1.013 billion in 2015- 16), Border Management $237.0 million (down from 259.8 million) and Regional Cooperation $107.9 million (up from $87.4 million).

Overseas aid and multilateral assistance

Foreign aid has been reduced by $224 million to $3.8 billion. At just 0.23% of Gross National Income (GNI), this number represents one of the lowest levels of aid allocation in Australia’s history. While the aid to countries in the Pacific region has mostly remained stable since last year, it has dropped by $15 million for Indonesia.

Papua New Guinea remains the largest aid recipient ($477 million) despite the announcement that the Manus Island detention centre will be closed. South Asian countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal are due to receive the same amount of aid as last year with a slight reduction to South and West Asia Regional areas. African and Middle Eastern countries also see a reduction of $0.6 million in aid.

Read the full analysis (PDF)

2016 17 Budget Summary
Size : 387.2 kB Format : PDF

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