Australia committed to refugees most in need
Wednesday, 09 May 2012
The Gillard Government will continue its commitment to providing refuge for the world's most vulnerable people by again designating 13 750 places under the humanitarian program in 2012–13.
'Australia resettles the third largest number of refugees of any country, and we resettle more refugees, per capita, than any other nation. Australians should be proud of the part we play in providing protection to refugees,' Mr Bowen said.
The humanitarian program is for offshore refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; people in Australia seeking protection and found to be refugees; and for those in need with links to Australia through the special humanitarian program.
'Under the 2012–13 program, our main resettlement focus will continue to be on refugees from the three key regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East,' Mr Bowen said.
Significant pressures on the special humanitarian program from the high number of protection visa grants in Australia will require further consideration of options to alleviate pressure on the program.
'The exceptionally high demand for visas under the humanitarian program far exceeds the number of places available,' Mr Bowen said.
'That is one of the reasons why the government remains committed to arrangements that eliminate the incentive for people to make the dangerous boat journey to Australia, maximising the number of places available to those in greatest need.'
Meanwhile, the government is continuing to look at ways of improving the humanitarian program.
'Consequently, we will be seeking the community's views on the feasibility of introducing a private sponsorship pilot program. We are keen to see if we can build on the goodwill towards refugees that exists in the Australian community to develop such a program,' Mr Bowen said.
'In the coming months, we will be seeking input from peak refugee bodies, non-government organisations and other relevant community stakeholders on the feasibility of such a program.'
Mr Bowen also announced the streamlining of health waiver provisions for offshore humanitarian applicants in response to a recommendation in the Joint Standing Committee on Migration report, Enabling Australia: Inquiry into the Migration Treatment of Disability.
'Streamlining the health waiver provision means that offshore humanitarian applicants who do not meet the health requirement on cost grounds are more likely to have a visa granted,' Mr Bowen said.
'This change brings requirements for offshore applicants into line with those for applicants under the onshore protection program. However, the change does not alter policies relating to health conditions that are a public health risk, or would require health care or community services that would prejudice the access of Australian residents.'
Vulnerable women will continue to be a priority under the humanitarian program through the 'woman at risk' initiative, set at 12 per cent of the refugee component of the program.
Last update: Wednesday, 09 May 2012 at 11:03 AEST