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Refugee Council of Australia
Home > Reports > A platform for change: Reforming Australian refugee policy

A platform for change: Reforming Australian refugee policy

Larger refugee program

A larger and more responsive Refugee and Humanitarian Program

The problem

  • Enormous global need for resettlement, concurrent with the reduction of resettlement by the US government.
  • De facto or announced exclusions of particular cohorts, including people stuck in Indonesia and particular minorities such as the Rohingya.
  • Perception of certain groups being favoured because of perceived superior “integration potential” and hostility towards certain religions and ethnic groups.
  • More than half of the current program is taken up effectively by applications for family reunion by people in Australia, but demand greatly exceeds supply.
  • The community sponsorship of refugees is largely limited to the Community Support Program, which focuses on levying large visa application charges on family members as a way of cutting costs within the existing Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

Proposed policy solution

Our vision: Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program increases significantly in size as Australia recognises that it should and can do more to contribute to durable solutions for the world’s refugees. Australia uses its refugee resettlement program strategically and holistically, linking it to aid and diplomatic efforts, which support solutions for refugees who cannot get access to resettlement. As part of its commitment to an enhanced response, Australia expands alternative migration pathways for refugees, increases access to family reunion outside of the Special Humanitarian Program and creates opportunities for increased community involvement in the refugee resettlement process.
This can be achieved by:

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Program (RHP) increasing in size in response to growing global need, and being strategically used as a lever to improve protection for those who are not resettled, especially in our region. The Program should be considered as an element in a whole-of-government approach to promoting protection, including through the use of aid and diplomacy.
  • Promoting family reunion of refugees through the inclusion of a separate stream of humanitarian family reunion in the Migration Program.
  • Enhancing public support for the Refugee Program by replacing the Community Support Program with a larger community-based private sponsorship program. Replacing the high-cost and restrictive Community Support Program with a separate and additional private sponsorship program for refugees based on the best aspects of the Canadian model, creating opportunities for broad-based community networks to get involved in raising funds and offering support to build a private sponsorship program of 10,000 places annually within five years.
  • Restoring the Refugee and Humanitarian Program immediately to 20,000 and increasing the size of the Program to between 27,000 and 30,000 places annually within three years, and increasing each year in light of global needs.
  • Increasing resettlement from Africa and most urgently resettling Rohingya refugees.
  • Establishing an Emergency Response contingency quota to provide additional capacity to respond to urgent protection needs (such as the current crisis in Syria/Iraq).
  • Establishing a pilot program to protect children at risk.
  • Developing alternative pathways to protection through our Migration Program.
  • Developing a whole-of-government approach that promotes peace and reconciliation in countries of origin, improves protection in countries of asylum, and enhances cooperation among resettlement states and between countries in the region.
  • Using regional leadership, diplomacy and the benefits of our existing Refugee and Humanitarian Program to neighbouring states in advocating for better protection in countries of asylum in our region, including most critically:
    • Durable solutions for Rohingya refugees
    • The right to live and work legally and access to basic education and health services
    • Reduce incentives for irregular movement by family members and promote the mental health of refugees in Australia through promoting family reunion by:

▪ Developing a separate Humanitarian Family Reunion program
▪ Alternatively, by improving access to the family stream of the Migration Program through concessions and waivers, and improved access to migration advice
▪ Removing restrictions on family reunion on those who come by boat

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