Refugee Council of Australia
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A new opportunity for global leadership: Options for Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program in 2019-20



Develop a comprehensive strategy for responding to major displacement crises

The Australian Government should convene a multi-stakeholder (cross-portfolio, plus civil society and refugee community leaders) to develop a comprehensive strategy to respond to major displacement crises that includes financial contributions to humanitarian responses, increased financial support to UNHCR, the use of diplomatic measures to address root causes of displacement, increased and strategic resettlement, and the enabling of community responses to displacement.

Increase in UNHCR funding

The Australian Government should significantly increase its unearmarked funding to UNHCR for global operations, allowing UNHCR to respond flexibly to changing displacement situations.

Appointment of an Ambassador for Refugee Protection

The Australian Government should appoint an Ambassador for Refugee Protection, to lead high-level advocacy on seeking durable solutions for refugees in the Asia-Pacific region and internationally.

Australian Government pledge at Global Refugee Forum

The Australian Government should make a significant new pledge at the December Global Refugee Forum to signal our leadership and commitment to greater responsibility-sharing. This pledge should include an increase in both resettlement places and funding support for responses to major refugee crises, as well as a commitment to review Australian refugee policies in the light of commitments made in the 2016 New York Declaration.

Australian Government to sign the Global Compact on Migration

The Australian Government should reverse its decision not to support the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and commit itself to working with other UN member states to improve the protection and safety of migrants most at risk.

Develop a whole-of society National Program of Action

Based on the commitments made in signing the 2016 New York Declaration, the Australian Government should work with refugee and local communities, civil society organisations, State and local governments, the private sector, media and other stakeholders to develop a whole-of-society National Program of Action.

That Australia’s Refugee Resettlement Program take stronger consideration of global resettlement needs

The composition of the offshore refugee program should reflect the priorities identified in UNHCR’s Global Resettlement Needs report, including an increase in the proportion of visas for resettlement places from Africa, reflecting that 44% of projected resettlement needs in 2019 are from this region.

Expand the Humanitarian Program in light of needs

The Department of Home Affairs should, in light of escalating global protection needs, consider expanding the Humanitarian Program to 30,000 places annually.

If this recommendation is not adopted, the Humanitarian Program should, at least, return to the 2016-17 level (21,968), including those resettled as part of the Syrian/Iraqi cohort.

Establish a contingency quota for emergency responses

The Australian Government should establish an Emergency Response contingency quota over and above the annual Humanitarian Program intake to provide additional capacity to respond to urgent protection needs during emergency situations, such as the current crisis in Syria, the escalating violence for Rohingya people, and the continued conflict in South Sudan.

Ensure that the Refugee visa sub-class is reserved for cases referred by UNHCR

The Department of Home Affairs should ensure that it is resettling the most vulnerable refugees. At least two-thirds of the Humanitarian Program should be set aside for Refugee Program visas (subclasses 200, 203 and 204). These subclasses should be reserved for those who have been referred by UNHCR.

Ensure that Australia’s Humanitarian Program remains non-discriminatory

The Department of Home Affairs should ensure that the Humanitarian Program remains non-discriminatory, by selecting refugees and humanitarian entrants based on need, rather than their religion, nationality, skills, English language ability or any other attribute.

More even distribution of Refugee and Humanitarian arrivals

The Department should ensure that arrivals through the Refugee and Humanitarian Program are distributed more evenly across the year.

Introduce a program to protect children at risk

The Department of Home Affairs should, in consultation with key stakeholders, increase its resettlement capacity for children and adolescents at risk by establishing a Children at Risk program. The program could use Australia’s existing systems to receive and support children and adolescents at risk.

Replace the Community Support Program with a better community sponsorship model of 10,000 places

The Australian Government should replace the Community Support Program with a better model for community sponsorship for up to 10,000 places outside of the Humanitarian Program that focuses on four key principles:

  • the principle of additionality;
  • priority based on need, not skills or nationality;
  • guaranteed access to settlement services;
  • wide community engagement

Complementary migration pathways

In conjunction with refugee community members, industry advisors, and service delivery organisations, the Australian Government should develop a suite of complementary migration pathways for people to receive protection, including through skilled migration and educational pathways. These complementary pathways must be in addition to and not in place of the Humanitarian Program. This should include:

  • Introducing flexible arrangements for people without required documentation of their identity, qualification, skills and employment history;
  • Providing more support for refugees to apply through the Skilled Migration Stream;
  • Providing concessions to employers and refugees wishing to apply through the Skilled Migration Stream;
  • Providing settlement support to refugees and their family arriving through the Migration Program, on a needs basis.

Develop a humanitarian family reunion program

The Australian Government should develop a separate Humanitarian Family Reunion Program of 10,000 places, outside of the Humanitarian Program. This should be developed in consultation with former refugee community members and organisations, peak bodies and relevant service providers.

Enhance access to family reunion

In the absence of a separate Humanitarian Family Reunion Program, the Australian Government should enhance refugee and humanitarian entrants’ access to family reunion by:

  • waiving application fees or at least introducing application fee concessions for refugee and humanitarian entrants sponsoring family members under the family stream of the Migration Program;
  • expanding the availability of no-interest loans to assist proposers in meeting the costs of airfares and/or application fees;
  • introducing greater flexibility in documentation and evidence requirements under both the Humanitarian Program and the family stream of the Migration Program;
  • reviewing eligibility requirements under the family stream of the Migration Program which effectively exclude applicants from refugee backgrounds;
  • prioritising processing of family members at immediate risk; and
  • ensuring access to settlement services on arrival and exempting family from the Newly Arrived Resident’s Waiting Period.

The Australian Government should consult with stakeholders to develop a process for assessing eligibility for concessions. There should be consultation with refugee communities, practitioners involved in providing support with family reunion applications and other relevant stakeholders to develop a process for assessing eligibility for the concessions referred to above.

Remove restrictions on family reunion for those who come by boat

The Australian Government should immediately remove current restrictions on access to family reunion opportunities for Protection Visa holders who arrived by boat (including changes to processing priorities).

If the above recommendation is not implemented, people whose applications have been affected by the introduction of retrospective changes to processing priorities should be given the opportunity to withdraw their applications and receive a full refund of application fees.

Restore funding for migration advice

The Australian Government should restore funding for professional migration advice services to support refugee and humanitarian entrants in lodging family reunion applications.

Identify families in need of reunification

The Australian Government should enter into dialogue with UNHCR about establishing a process for identifying refugee families that are seeking reunification, facilitating assessment and registration in countries of asylum and prioritising them for referral for resettlement under Australia’s offshore program.

Separate the onshore and offshore components

The Department of Home Affairs should de-link the onshore component of the Humanitarian Program from the offshore component. Visas granted to onshore asylum seekers should not take places away from the offshore component. There should be no cap on the number of onshore refugee visas granted.

Abolish temporary protection visas

The Australian Government should abolish Temporary Protection Visas and grant permanent visas to all people who currently hold Temporary Protection, Temporary Humanitarian Concern or Temporary Safe Haven visas.

If this recommendation is not implemented:

  • All temporary protection visa holders be granted access to settlement services on the same basis as permanent refugee and humanitarian visa holders;
  • Transitional support provided under the Status Resolution Support Services program following the grant of a Temporary Protection Visa should be extended to at least six weeks, with extensions available on a needs basis;
  • Overseas travel restrictions should be lifted;
  • Family reunion options should be considered;
  • The Department of Home Affairs should develop a comprehensive communications strategy to explain the implications of temporary protection visas to both visa holders and service providers;
  • The Australian Government should consider options for designating certain industries in any location as fulfilling the eligibility criteria for the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa.

Change the policy barring renewals of temporary protection visas

The Australian Government should abolish the policy barring renewals of temporary protection visas because a person has not applied in time.

End the punishment of people seeking asylum

The Australian Government should end the punishment of people seeking asylum, which creates real risks of breaching our international protection obligations. These policies include offshore processing, boat turnbacks, indefinite detention, changes to the definition of refugee and internal relocation, the weakening of our refugee status determination processes, and removals of people before it is clear whether they are owed international protection.

Develop a strategic framework for resettlement

The Australian Government should develop, publish and implement a framework for Australia’s refugee resettlement program based on:

  • priority resettlement to the most vulnerable refugees, including women at risk, children at risk, culturally isolated groups of refugees (e.g. small groups of African refugees in South and South-East Asia), LGBTQI refugees and other minorities at risk;
  • the promotion of family unity;
  • the strategic use of resettlement; and
  • the consideration of global resettlement needs in the development of regional allocations.
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