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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

2012-13 budget

Key points

  • The Government will be seeking the community’s views on the feasibility of introducing a private sponsorship pilot program to enhance the humanitarian program.
  • Government funding for refugee and migrant settlement services will total $334.4 million, an increase of just 1.4%.
  • There will be a decrease in funding for the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program, primarily as a result of capping the maximum level of humanitarian settlement services to people seeking asylum who are found to be owed protection, have been granted a permanent visa and who have been living independently in the community for more than six months. The Government is seeking to save $13.1million over four years through the cap.
  • Immigration detention costs (administered costs for onshore detention and Offshore Asylum Seeker Management, excluding the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s internal costs) will be approximately $750 million.
  • The health criteria that applicants must meet to obtain an Australian visa will be reformed, with the requirement removed for offshore Humanitarian Visa applicants to meet the Significant Cost Threshold criteria.
  • Funding of $20.2 million over two years ($12.2 million in administered costs in 2012-13) will go towards the supervision and support of unaccompanied humanitarian minors. The program provides settlement services to minors who arrive in Australia without a guardian and who are the recipients of a Humanitarian Visa.

Refugee and Humanitarian Program

The 2011-12 Refugee and Humanitarian Program will remain static at 13,750 places, comprising 6,000 Refugee Program places (for refugees referred for resettlement through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR]) and 7,750 places to be shared between the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) and onshore protection visa allocations.

The Woman at Risk quota will remain at 12% of the Refugee Program (720 places).

The health criteria that applicants must meet to obtain an Australian visa will be reformed. Under current arrangements, visa applicants are refused entry to Australia where the estimated costs of treating a pre-existing health condition are above the Significant Cost Threshold set at $21,000. The threshold will be increased to $35,000 to better reflect current health costs, and the requirement to meet the threshold criteria removed for offshore Humanitarian Visa applicants. This reform will commence on 1 July 2012.

General Migration Program

The general migration program will increase to 190,000 places, up from 185,000 places for 2011-12. The program will comprise 129,250 skill stream places (up 3,400 places from 2011-12), 60,185 family stream places (up 1,585 places) and 565 special eligibility places (up 15 places). The increase in the family program is targeted as an important factor in attracting and retaining skilled migrants.

Settlement and Multicultural Affairs

Government funding of settlement services for migrants and refugees will increase just 1.4% to $334.4 million.

The Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program has been allocated $57.8 million, a decrease of $3.6 million primarily as a result of capping the maximum level of humanitarian settlement services to people seeking asylum who are found to be owed protection, have been granted a permanent visa and who have been living independently in the community for more than six months. The Government is seeking to save $13.1million over four years through the cap.

Settlement Grants Program (SGP) will see funding of $39.4 million, up slightly from $38.7 million.

Total funding for the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) will increase from $212.5 million to $220.8 million, including $5million over three years to pilot virtual English tuition via the National Broadband Network. The virtual English service will support new migrants living in regional Australia with a distance learning package that complements the AMEP.

In recognition of the need for enhanced support, supervision and services for unaccompanied humanitarian minors, there will be an increase in funding from $3.47 million to $20.2million over two years ($12.2 million in administered costs in 2012-13). The program provides settlement services to minors who arrive in Australia without a guardian, and who are the recipients of a Humanitarian Visa.

As flagged in last year’s budget, funding for the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program will drop to normal levels ($1.9 million) in 2012-13.

A grant of $140,000 will be provided to RCOA to support our core work.

Processing of people seeking asylum and immigration detention

In 2012-13, $59.2 million has been allocated to community and detention services for the onshore detention network, plus $26.9 million for internal costs associated with onshore detention within the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). DIAC will also pay contractors $689 million for detention services for people seeking asylum managed through the offshore process (people seeking asylum arriving by boat), down from $780 million in 2011-12. DIAC’s internal costs associated with all aspects of offshore asylum seeker management will be $314.2 million (up from $303.9 million). The total costs of offshore asylum seeker management will be just over $1 billion.

The Government will provide $8.6million in 2012-13 to streamline processes for granting and reviewing protection visas for both boat and air arrivals, using current onshore arrangements for Protection Visa applications and merits review through the Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal.

Funding for the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (onshore protection) was slightly increased to $3.24 million.

Payments to the Australian Red Cross Society for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (for approximately 3,000 cases) will total $10.9 million.

In its work in Visa Compliance and Status Resolution, DIAC will spend $51.9 million on Detection Onshore, $16.7 million on Removals and $17.5 million on Status Resolution. Contracts for compliance resolution, community care and assistance will equal $9.3 million. An additional $30.5 million will be spent on policy advice and program design in these areas.

$27.3 million will be spent on refugee status determination for offshore entry persons (people seeking asylum arriving by boat).

Border security and regional cooperation

In 2012-13 the Federal Government has allocated $1.1 billion to border protection measures through the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and an additional $142 million for border protection to DIAC.

$11.3 million will be provided over two years to enhance engagement and provide training and technical assistance to regional immigration agencies, with the aim of assisting these agencies to detect and disrupt irregular people movements throughout the region.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will be handed $8.8 million next financial year to prosecute crew and organisers of people-smuggling ventures.

$121.4 million has been allocated to regional cooperation and associated activities over the next four years. This includes $7.9 million for management and care of irregular immigrants in Indonesia in 2012-13; $99.1 million over four years for regional cooperation and capacity building measures; $7.7 million over four years to continue the Reintegration Assistance Program, which supports the voluntary return of people seeking asylum to their country of origin; $4.5 million over three years for the establishment of a Regional Support Office to facilitate enhanced regional cooperation; and $2.1 million in 2012-13 million to combat people smuggling and irregular migration in the region. An additional $35.3 million will be spent on policy advice and program design in these areas.

Overseas aid and multilateral assistance

The Government has deferred its commitment to increase spending on foreign aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI) until 2016-17. Official Development Assistance will remain at 0.35% of GNI in 2012-13. The United Nations’ recommended aid allocation is 0.7% of GNI. The total aid budget for 2012-13 is $5.2 billion, a slight increase in real terms on the previous year ($4.9 billion).

$105 million has been allocated to United Nations Humanitarian agencies, including $19 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and $15 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. The International Committee of the Red Cross will receive $22 million.

In most regions, spending on aid will increase slightly in real terms:

  • Aid to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific will increase from $1.16 billion to $1.17 billion.
  • Aid to Indonesia and East Asia will increase from $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.
  • Aid to South and West Asia will increase from $465 million to $525 million.
  • Aid to Africa and the Middle East will increase from $384 million to $465 million.
  • Aid to Latin America and the Caribbean will decrease slightly from $48 million to $47.5 million.

The Government will provide $286 million over two years for ongoing civilian and police engagement with Afghanistan, including maintaining Australia’s diplomatic and police presence in Afghanistan to support engagement with the Afghanistan Government and build the capacity of the Afghan National Police.

Australia will support the Thailand-Burma Border Consortium to assist programs for child care and other care functions and provide women with access to justice and support services. The amount of funding to be provided had not been specified.

A key focus area for Australia’s aid program in Palestinian Territories will be provision of basic services and humanitarian and emergency assistance to refugees, including health services and education for refugee children.

The budget does not provide information on aid expenditure in Africa by country.

As noted by the Australian Council of International Development,there are no references in the aid budget to explicit funding support for conflict prevention, resolution, peace and security, excepting the activities of the Australian Federal Police in Timor Leste and Afghanistan.

Broader human rights measures

A total of $23.1 million has been allocated to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2012-13.

$3.5 million will be allocated over four years to establish a National Children’s Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Children’s Commissioner will promote public awareness of issues affecting children, conduct research and education programs, consult children, and monitor Commonwealth legislation, policies and programs.

$2.9 million has been allocated over four years for the Commonwealth Human Rights Education Program.

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