Labor and Greens jeopardise refugee outcomes


NOTE: This article is older than 12 months

Labor and Mr Shorten's arbitrary doubling of Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Programme is all about politics and was a crass attempt to win over the left on boat turn backs.

About 70 per cent of Australia's migration programme is made up of skilled migrants and Australia's annual net migration figure is approximately 190,000.

In addition under the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme we accept 13,750 people per year. We provide services to applicants who by definition come from war-torn countries and situations where people face persecution.

Our Government provides significant funding on settlement services to help people within the humanitarian and refugee programme with services such as education, training, accommodation, English language lessons and trauma counselling.

Our programme grows gradually from 13,750 per annum. Labor's decision to just double the figure was done solely for political purposes. There was no science in doubling the figure – it was purely done to try to win over the Left during the debate at ALP conference on boat turnbacks.

Here are the facts on people coming in through the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme:

  •   44 per cent of the female arrivals and 33 per cent of males do not understand spoken English prior to arrival
  •   23 per cent of female arrivals and 17 per cent of males are illiterate in their own language
  •   15 per cent have never attended school
  •   46 per cent have never undertaken paid work

Data from the Building a New Life in Australia study, the Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants (BLNA) which remains ongoing, indicates that humanitarian entrants face considerable economic and social challenges to settling successfully in Australia. The BNLA found humanitarian settlers fill low skill and low paid occupations.

Other studies have found that humanitarian entrants generally have poorer employment outcomes than other migrants, particularly in their early years of settlement.

The Australian Census Migrants Integrated Dataset shows that for humanitarian entrants 32 per cent are recording as being 'in the labour force' while 45 per cent were 'not in the labour force'. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that in March the general Australian population had a Labour Force Participation Rate of 65 per cent.

The Personal Income Tax Migrants Integrated Dataset indicates humanitarian visa holders reported income of around $25,000 well below the national average of just under $50,000 for Australian taxpayers.

During the data matching period less than 20 per cent of these humanitarian migrants submitted a tax return.

What this shows is that it is vital to be able to provide the housing, employment, health and integration services that provide the base for these migrants to build a new, happy, healthy and successful life in our country – a process that can take years, even a generation.

A doubling of the Refuge and Humanitarian Programme annually as committed to by Labor would cost an estimated $2.5 billion dollars over the four year period of the Forward Estimates.

The Greens proposal to quadruple the intake to 50,000 annually would come at an estimated cost of $7 billion dollars over the Forward Estimates.

Australia is already one of the most generous nations in resettling refugees.

We rank in the top three nations for providing permanent resettlement of those most in need from around the world.

Refugees and humanitarian entrants are selected not because they have skills, but because they face persecution or serious discrimination. Many will have been denied basic services such as health and education in their own country and will have suffered trauma or torture for years.

Given those circumstances, we should not be surprised that entrants under the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme need considerable and specialist long term support to settle into our country.

That is why the Government is committed so strongly to funding settlement services, but it comes at a cost.

The size and composition of the Refugee and Humanitarian Programme is carefully considered annually to ensure sufficient resources are available to successfully process and integrate those fleeing persecution.

The Labor/Greens proposals risk jeopardising settlement outcomes.

Australians support an organised migration programme; Australia is a nation of immigrants.

But the programme needs to remain manageable and acceptable to maintain that support from the broad Australian population. Australia has proudly and successfully resettled more than 825,000 refugees and others in humanitarian needs since World War II and we have the capacity to continue this generosity in a managed process.

To assert that virtually overnight you can double (Labor) or quadruple (The Greens) – on an annual basis – this intake of vulnerable people with many special needs is the height of irresponsibility and jeopardises the current community support for the refugee programme.

One only has to look at the influx of more than 50,000 people illegally on boats during the last Labor Government to see how unrealistic both the Labor and Greens proposals are.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will take at least the next three years to simply process these people.

The special intake of 12,000 Syrians and Iraqis from the war-torn Middle East will take a number of programme years, simply because we cannot cut corners in regards to the various checks, but particularly security checks, that we must carry out on people before we offer them the opportunity to resettle in Australia. The Government has committed over $800 million to this special intake alone.

We live in a dangerous and uncertain world in terms of security and we need appropriate processes in place to ensure we are assisting those most in need with the least prospect of returning to their previous lives.

One only has to look at the recent events in Europe to realise that secure borders and organised migration are vitally important to the security of any nation.

Only the Coalition is committed to strong border protection policies to keep Australia as safe and secure as is possible.


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