How has the Australian government responded?
As announced by the Australian government in September 2015, 12,000 places have been made available for people displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq in addition to others who are coming as part of the existing annual quota of 13,750 within the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Due to the success of this initial addition resettlement programme, OXFAM is urging Australia to now accept a new intake of Syrian refugees.
The 12,000 people resettled in Australia can get the same benefits as other permanent humanitarian entrants, including employment services, Medicare, income support payments, English language tuition, torture and trauma counselling and settlement services.
The first families granted visas as part of the allocated humanitarian places began arriving in Australia in November 2015 and there is now a regular flow of visa grants for Syrians and Iraqis. There is a gap between when visas are granted and when they arrive, because of the time taken to complete checks and finalise travel arrangements. Before a visa is granted, applicants for resettlement in Australia are required to meet all criteria for a Refugee and Humanitarian visa, including health, character and security checks.
There are growing concerns that Australia, in identifying persecuted minorities for resettlement, had preferenced Christians over refugees who identified with different religions groups. There are also concerns that too many refugees are being resettled in too few years, such as the Sydney suburb’s of Fairfield and Liverpool, and Hume in Melbourne. More funding needs to be distributed to allow for better coordination and structuring of humanitarian services.
The wider Australian community continues to show generosity of spirit towards our newest arrivals. It is important that our new arrivals are given time to adjust to their new life in Australia and that the community and media respect their privacy.