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Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program: Recent changes in refugee and asylum policy and implications for the future Presentation and consultation.

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Presentation on theme: "Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program: Recent changes in refugee and asylum policy and implications for the future Presentation and consultation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program: Recent changes in refugee and asylum policy and implications for the future Presentation and consultation to inform RCOA’s Submission on Australia’s 2013-14 Refugee and Humanitarian Program

2 Overview RCOA’s Intake Submission and consultations International and Australian context Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers: Recommendations and implications Pathways to protection: Onshore processing of asylum applications Discussion

3 Refugee Council of Australia The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national umbrella body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them. RCOA promotes the adoption of flexible, humane and practical policies towards refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and internationally through conducting research, advocacy, policy analysis and community education. RCOA operates with a small staff and does not provide direct services. We aim to be a strong independent voice for refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

4 RCOA Submission and consultations Annual consultations inform RCOA’s submission to the Minister and Department of Immigration on Australia’s 2013-14 Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Major changes to Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program have recently been announced. This presentation provides an overview of these changes and some of their implications. RCOA is seeking your views on these changes and impacts on refugee communities.

5 International context In 2011, UNHCR global statistics show Forcibly displaced personsNo. displaced Refugees15.2 million Refugees under UNHCR’s mandate 10.4 million Palestinian refugees under UNRWA’s mandate 4.8 million Asylum seekers895,000 Internally displaced persons26.4 million TOTAL42.5 million Up to 12 million people were affected by statelessness.

6 International context In 2011… 4.3 million people newly displaced; Asylum applications increased by over 60%; Number of asylum seekers recognised as refugees more than doubled; 7.1 million refugees remain in protracted situations (i.e. no solution for many years); 79,784 refugees were resettled in 2011, almost 20,000 fewer than in 2010; UNHCR estimates 859,305 people will be in need of resettlement in the coming years.

7 Australian context Composition of the 2011-12 RHP:

8 Australian context For the first time ever, the onshore (7,039 visas or 51.2%) was larger than the offshore (6,720 visas or 48.8%) component of the Humanitarian Program. Of the 7,039 onshore protection visas, 4,766 (67.7%) were granted to people who had arrived by boat. Increase in protection visa applications lodged:

9 Australian context Regional composition of offshore program

10 Questions What strategies could the Australian Government adopt to respond to key refugee protection issues and new and existing humanitarian crises? What role could the Refugee and Humanitarian Program play in this response? Which groups would you nominate as being in priority need of resettlement under Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program during 2013-14?

11 Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers 28 June - Expert Panel announced to provide a report on the best way forward “for Australia to prevent asylum seekers risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia”. 13 August - the Panel releases its report after six weeks of consultation and research. 22 recommendations in report concerning the future composition of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program, regional protection, asylum policy and family reunion. Australian Government has committed in principle to implementing all 22 recommendations.

12 Panel recommendations: Composition Increase number of humanitarian visas granted from 13,750 to 20,000 this financial year (2012-13). This is the biggest increase in 30 years. Consideration be given to increasing the number of places to 27,000 within five years. Of 20,000 places, 12,000 be granted for offshore Refugee visas (sub-classes 200, 201, 203, 204). Remaining 8,000 places split between SHP (sub- class 202) and onshore Protection visas (sub- class 866). i.e. ongoing numerical link between onshore and SHP.

13 Panel recommendations: Composition Regional composition: Maintain resettlement places for Africa (currently 21% of offshore program); Additional places from Middle East and Asia; Of additional places, up to 3,800 from South-East Asia and more focus on resettlement from places close to countries of origin (i.e. Middle East) Other caseloads to focus on: Iranians, Iraqis, Sri Lankans. No specific details released by DIAC yet.

14 Panel recommendations: Composition Private/community refugee sponsorship pilot announced as part of May Federal Budget with one of the aims to increase capacity for Australia to resettle more refugees. 23 August – Increase to 20,000 places announced as result of recommendation of Expert Panel. Announcement on private/community sponsorship pilot is expected before end of year. Unclear what visa category or how a pilot will be structured in context of already-expanded RHP. Expert panel suggests sponsorship program could reduce costs of humanitarian visa by one third.

15 Questions What comments, questions or concerns do you have about the recommended changes to the composition of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program (i.e. the immediate increase in numbers to 20,000, increase in refugee quota to 12,000, increased regional focus on South-East Asia, and continuation of the link between the onshore protection and SHP components)? What role do you think a private/community sponsorship program should or could play within Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program?

16 Panel recommendations: Asylum policy Offshore processing: Panel recommended legislation be introduced as a “matter of urgency”. On 17 August, Parliament made legislative changes to allow the transfer of asylum seekers to regional processing countries, paving the way for offshore processing in Nauru and PNG.

17 Panel recommendations: Asylum policy Legislation included: removal of minimum conditions for offshore processing country; processes for and issues to be considered when making a designation for offshore processing; designations be made through a disallowable legislative instrument; Removes the Minister for Immigration’s guardian responsibilities for unaccompanied minors transferred to a regional processing country.

18 Panel recommendations: Asylum policy Safeguards: the only conditions in making offshore designation is that Minister believes it is in the national interest to do so, and has considered whether the designated country has provided assurances re: the principle of non-refoulement and access to RSD procedures. No sunset clause: No regular review mechanism for designations of regional processing countries. A designation can remain in place indefinitely, regardless of whether conditions change or whether the initial assurances are fulfilled. Obstruction of natural justice: Minister’s decision to designate a country as an offshore processing country will not be open to independent review.

19 Panel recommendations: Asylum policy Panel recommended that a capacity be established in Nauru and PNG “as soon as practical” to process the claims of “IMAs” transferred from Australia. First asylum seekers sent to Nauru on 14 September; Manus Island (PNG) reported to be opened Nov. No information regarding processes for safeguarding their rights and wellbeing. Panel recommended that the timeframe for resettlement out of Nauru or PNG be “in line with other regional processing arrangements”. Improvements required for a comprehensive regional cooperation and protection framework are currently not in place. Question: What is a fair “waiting time”?

20 Panel recommendations: Asylum policy Panel recommended Malaysia Agreement be built on through bilateral engagement focused on strengthening safeguards and accountability as a positive basis for Australian Parliament’s reconsidering the designation of Malaysia as an offshore processing country. Excision policy: The Panel recommended that the Migration Act 1958 be amended so that a person arriving anywhere on Australia soil by irregular maritime means have the same lawful status as those who arrive in an excised offshore place (i.e. liable to have claims assessed through regional or offshore processing). The Panel recommended a review of the Australian refugee status determination (RSD) process. The Panel suggested possible turnback of boats carrying asylum seekers in future “if appropriate regional and bilateral arrangements are in place”.

21 Question What comments, questions or concerns do you have about the changes to asylum policy recommended by the Expert Panel (including reinstating offshore processing, the Malaysia Agreement, extending excision to all of Australia, reviewing refugee status determination (RSD) processes and considerations for turning back boats in the future) and the implementation of these?

22 Panel recommendations: Regional protection A comprehensive and sustainable regional framework for improving protection and asylum systems: the significant expansion of registration, processing, delivery of durable outcomes for refugees and the return of failed asylum seekers, enhanced regional cooperation to combat people smuggling. Focus areas for this “managed regional system”: consolidating the Regional Cooperation Framework developed through the Bali Process; enhancing cooperation on capacity-building initiatives; increasing funding for UNHCR. Few details contained in Panel Report. It is unclear at this stage how the Australian Government will pursue the implementation of this recommendation.

23 Panel recommendations: Regional protection Capacity-building initiatives – $10 million additional funding for programs supporting the development of a regional framework for improved protections, registration, processing, integration, resettlement, returns and other priorities. Enhanced bilateral cooperation and engagement with Indonesia, Malaysia and other key source countries for asylum seekers arriving in Australia – e.g. additional resettlement places. Better coordination with other resettlement countries to enhance the strategic use of resettlement. Development of joint operational guidelines for managing search and rescue activities in the region.

24 Questions What issues and strategies should be considered by the Australian Government in pursuing a sustainable regional protection framework? What would an effective and humane model include?

25 Panel recommendations: Family reunion SHP (visa sub-class 202) – 714 visas granted in 2011- 12. 20,000 applications in ‘backlog’. Even fewer SHP visas expected to be granted in 2012-13. Panel recommendations re: family reunion: Remove policy concessions for immediate (Split) family applicants in order to reduce size of the SHP backlog; Reduce future eligibility to SHP for refugees who arrive by boat; Allocate an additional 4,000 places in the family stream of the Migration Program specifically for humanitarian entrants (with no concessions); A decrease in number of onshore Protection visas granted as result of suite of Expert Panel recommendations would lead to increased capacity in SHP in longer term.

26 Questions What do you think about the changes in eligibility to the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) for humanitarian entrants who arrived by boat? What do you see are the main barriers to humanitarian entrants proposing to reunite with family members through the family stream of the Migration Program? What could be done to make the family stream of the Migration Program more accessible to humanitarian entrants? What other issues or observations would you like to highlight concerning the experiences of family separation and the opportunities for family reunion for refugee and humanitarian entrants?

27 Pathways to protection: Onshore processing Major changes in past 24 months: Expansion of community detention; Shift to one refugee status determination process; Community release of asylum seekers on bridging visas (BVEs). Unsure what return to offshore processing will mean in long-term for onshore processing. In short-term, ~7,000 people in held detention (as of mid-Sep) who arrived before 13 August and are eligible for community release for the duration of the resolution of their protection claims. Opportunity to reflect on community placements.

28 Pathways to protection: Onshore processing Community detention: Expansion of community detention for children, families and vulnerable asylum seekers from 25 places in October 2010 to around 1,650 in September 2012. More than 5,100 clients have been approved for the CD program since its expansion in October 2010. More than 2,950 of these clients have been granted a permanent Protection visa, and about 440 have been granted a temporary bridging visa (BVE). As of 19 September 2012, there were approximately 1,650 people residing in CD. Those in CD are still detained under migration act – no visa granted, no work rights, support provided through services contracted by DIAC (Red Cross and others).

29 Pathways to protection: Onshore processing Refugee status determination (RSD) process: From 24 March 2012, all asylum seekers have access to the statutory RSD, review through the Refugee Review Tribunal and access to judicial review of decisions to determine if legal errors were made. The establishment of this single system for all asylum claims assessed in Australia coincided with the introduction of complementary protection. All claims for protection are now assessed at the primary and review stages against both the Refugee Convention and other human rights treaties such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture.

30 Pathways to protection: Onshore processing Bridging visas: In December 2011 DIAC began releasing asylum seekers to reside in the community on bridging visas (BVEs) for the duration of the resolution of their protection claims; People who arrive by boat are detained for initial health, security and identity checks. DIAC seeks to release people onto bridging visas within 90 days. (The average stay in closed detention was 343 days in June 2011 and 86 days in July 2012.) People on BVEs supported initially through DIAC-funded contracted services: Community Assistance Support (CAS) Transitional; CAS; Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme (ASAS); and Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) – for those who are ‘1A-met’

31 Pathways to protection: Onshore processing Bridging visas: From November 2011 to September 2012, around 4,900 asylum seekers who arrived by boat were moved from detention onto Bridging Visas. Of those, around 2,000 people on bridging visas have now been granted a Protection visa, leaving approximately 2,800 BVE-holders in the community. As of 31 July 2012, there were still 6,809 people in closed detention. It is expected that 2,000 people per month will be released on BVEs by the end of the year.

32 Questions Have you observed differences between the settlement experiences of people who settled after extended time spent in closed detention and those released into the community on a bridging visa or in community detention? What local programs or initiatives are working well to support people in the community awaiting the resolution of their Protection application? What supports do you think should be made available to people on bridging visas or in community detention to enhance their settlement prospects if a Protection visa is granted?

33 Question Are there any other new and emerging issues or concerns that you think the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) should be advocating on?

34 Thank you for your participation. Please email any additional ideas, comments or suggestions to by 10 November

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