JRS’ submission to the Department of Home Affairs Discussion Paper on Australia’s Humanitarian Program

JRS welcomed the opportunity to provide feedback on the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) Discussion Paper on Australia’s Humanitarian Program 2018 – 2019. 

Our feedback was focused on the following five areas:

  • Global Compacts
  • Australia’s Migration Program and Complementary Pathways
  • Protecting Forcibly Displaced Peoples in the Asia Pacific Region
  • Onshore Protection
  • Family Reunion

#1 Global Compacts

The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) are the most important instruments in decades when it comes to global governance of migration and refugees.

In our submission, we welcomed the Australian government’s engagement during the negotiations, and look forward to the same level of engagement when governments are called upon to implement the Compacts.

Some of the key points we highlighted in our submission include:

  • Mixed migration and the shared responsibility of the international community to manage large movements of refugees and migrants in a humane, sensitive, compassionate and people-centred manner. By signing on to the Compacts, Australia inherently acknowledges it’s obligation to fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, safety and dignity of refugees and migrants
  • Non-Refoulement. This means the government would ensure all people seeking asylum have access to what they need to lodge their claims for protection and that the government takes into account the individualised risks for each person.
  • The end of child detention.
  • The way in which these compacts can be implemented in Australia.

#2 Australia’s Migration Program and Complementary Pathways

In our submission, we welcomed the Australian government’s increase in the number of humanitarian program places from 16,250 to 18,750.

We called for the government to consider a higher proportion of skilled migration places for refugees within Australia’s migration program. Many refugees have highly sought-after qualifications and experience in specialised industries and could contribute equally to those classified as skilled migrants, especially if they’re selected to fill skill shortages or live in regional areas, vastly improving our economy.

#3 Protecting Forcibly Displaced Peoples in the Asia Pacific Region

In our submission, we called on the government to take a leading role in working toward long-term solutions for protection in the Asia Pacific region.

We welcomed the Australian’s provision of up to $51.5 million in humanitarian funding for Rohingyas in Bangladesh, suggesting the government consider broadening Australia’s engagement in key source and transit countries. This would include:

  • identifying and supporting key diaspora organisations in peacebuilding
  • context-specific capacity
  • skill development initiatives
  • growing remittances.

In addition, we support the allocation of 12,000 additional resettlement places for people from Syria and Iraq and acknowledge the hard work done by Fairfield City Council, Multicultural NSW, and a range of other stakeholders who ensured the settlement process was a success. We believe these kinds of emergency humanitarian visa quotas could be regularised and could be aligned with other objectives including:

  • alleviating crises within host countries in South East Aisa
  • increasing settlement in rural/regional areas
  • catering for small numbers of people in particularly vulnerable situations such as women-at-risk, children, or people with severe disability

#4 Onshore Protection

We recommended that the number of onshore places for people seeking asylum be increased or de-linked from the humanitarian program in order to address the backlog of people who are in the process of seeking protection.

We are concerned about the cuts to Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) payments and recognise the difficulties people who apply for protection once in Australia often experience, such as sudden losses of status, income, and community support. JRS would also like to see strong commitments to support women and girl refugees and asylum seekers at risk of or who have experienced domestic and or family violence (DFV). Specifically:

  • That women and girls be given the option upon arrival to make separate visa applications to their spouses.
  • That victims of DFV on temporary visas be encouraged to report incidents by ensuring that criminal justice matters remain separate to the RSD process or visa status.
  • That greater federal government funding be devoted to specialist CALD- specific DFV prevention and response services, which also be made accessible to women asylum seekers and vulnerable migrant women
  • That victims of DFV on all temporary visas be granted a pathway to permanent residency.

Finally, we urged the government to maintain standard processes with departmental interviews, allow for independent reviews and access to the courts, so protection claims are better assessed on individual merits.

#5 Family Reunion

JRS advised the government of the importance of family reunification for refugee settlement. Refugees and other forcibly displaced people require urgent and prioritised access to family reunion because family members often remain in situations of acute danger. We endorsed recommendations put forward in a joint 2017 paper by the Refugee Council of Australia and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR).

In conclusion

The purpose of this submission (JRS Australia’s fourth in 2018) is to engage with policy development in Australian and share our ideas for what just, humane, and effective forced migration policies look like.

This kind of engagement complements our high-level lobbying, advocacy, and grassroots work with people seeking asylum across Australia.

We encourage you to respond with your reflections and ideas by contacting us. To see the full submission, click here.

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