In April 2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited Australia for a three-day tour of meetings with Australian Government representatives, NGOs and people from refugee backgrounds. It was the first time a UN High Commissioner for Refugees had visited Australia since the previous Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, in 2012.
Prior to his arrival, the Refugee Council of Australia wrote to Mr Grandi to highlight our key concerns regarding Australian refugee policy, and asked the High Commissioner to raise these issues in his meetings with the Australian Government. Our letter raised a number of issues, including:
- Opportunities to expand resettlement and complementary pathways
- Pressing need for constructive regional leadership
- The urgent need to reform the financial assistance available to people seeking asylum
- The need for a fair and effective process to review refugee claims rejected under the “fast track” process
- The government’s deeply disturbing failure to shift the destructive offshore processing policy in any way
- The pressing need for alternatives to detention for hundreds of people who have sought asylum in Australia or have had refugee visas revoked.
In a public presentation in Sydney on Thursday, 20 April, Mr Grandi thanked RCOA for the useful letter and said that it was used as part of his key talking points in his meetings with the Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Immigration Minister and senior officials.
On Friday 21 April, Mr Grandi gave a public address at the University of Melbourne’s Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness, where he presented a vision for a ‘panoramic’ approach to mixed movements of people. The High Commissioner condemned Australia’s use of offshore processing and boat turn-backs, saying that “far too often, rich countries have a myopic approach to global forced displacement and population movements, focusing overwhelmingly on border controls.” The speech can be read online or viewed below.
The High Commissioner and the Minister for Immigration, Hon Andrew Giles MP, also opened the new Melbourne offices of our member organisation Refugee Legal that night. Minister Giles stated in his address that “the time of negative globalism is over. It’s time to return not just to constructive engagement in our region and around the world, but to assume leadership in addressing the global displacement crisis as Australia did 70 years ago.”
RCOA hopes that the High Commissioners visit to Australia inspires Australia take action on the Minister’s commitment to “assume leadership in addressing the global displacement crisis”.