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Boost to refugee intake welcomed

17 August 20230 comments

Australia’s humanitarian sector has welcomed the federal government’s announcement that the number of people resettled in Australia’s Humanitarian Settlement Program will increase from 17,875 to 20,000 per year.​

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, announced the move recently.

He said the commitment will help ensure Australia plays its part in responding to the global humanitarian crisis, at a time where more than 100 million people are forcibly displaced and more than two million people are in urgent need of resettlement worldwide.

The UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR welcomed the announcement, saying the increase comes at a critical time of record global displacement.

Adrian Edwards, UNHCR Regional Representative for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific said that according to the latest UN data, more than 2.4 million refugees will be in need of resettlement in 2024, marking a 20 per cent increase. One third of global needs are in the Asia region, with Afghanistan and Myanmar among some of the most acute crises.   

“The concerning trend of new emergencies and protracted refugee situations globally highlights the critical need for countries with the means, including Australia, to support regional neighbours in responsibility sharing, increased funding and resettlement places,” Mr Edwards said.

“Resettlement provides a critical lifeline for those forced to flee – resettlement gives refugees protection and the chance to rebuild their lives and contribute to society. Unfortunately, only a tiny proportion of the world’s refugees are accepted by States for resettlement.” he said.

CEO of settlement agency AMES Australia Cath Scarth also welcomed the move.

“We welcome the extra humanitarian places. This means more vulnerable people will be able to build new lives in Australia and contribute to our society,” Ms Scarth said.

“And it means more families will be reunited in Australia”.

Minister Giles said Australia’s humanitarian program was providing refugees with certainty and security as they rebuild their lives in Australia and contribute to our economy and society.

“The Albanese Government reaffirms its commitment to those in need with an increase in our Humanitarian Program annual intake. This responsibility extends beyond their arrival, by providing robust support to refugees to ensure they are well equipped to settle into Australia and rebuild their lives with certainty,” Minister Giles said.

“With more people displaced worldwide than ever before, the Albanese Labor Government is stepping up to play its part in the global resettlement effort in a responsible way. 

“Refugees have provided an invaluable contribution to our country- from Awer Mabil to Anh Do, Tan Le to Frank Lowy,” he said.

A statement from the federal government said it remained committed to securing Australia’s borders, while maintaining our sense of humanity and responsibility.

“Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy architecture remains unchanged. Anyone who attempts an unauthorised boat voyage to Australia will be turned back to their point of departure, returned to their home country or transferred to another country,” the statement said.

“All non-citizens who are found to not engage Australia’s protection obligations and have exhausted all avenues to remain in Australia are expected to depart as soon as possible.”

UNHCR has estimated that more than 2.4 million refugees will be in need of resettlement this year, compared to just over two million in 2023.

The large increase in needs (20 per cent) reflects the growing number of refugees worldwide, which had its largest yearly increase ever on record (from 27.1 million in 2021 to 35.3 million at the end of 2022), and the concerning trend of new emergencies and protracted refugee situations globally.

For the eighth year in a row, refugees from Syria represent the refugee population with the highest needs globally, followed by refugees from Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Asia region has the highest estimated resettlement needs of any region in 2024 at nearly 730,000 refugees (30 per cent of the global needs).

This number reflects the significant needs of both Afghan refugees (nearly 497,000), hosted mainly in Iran and Pakistan, and refugees from Myanmar (240,993 persons), mostly in Bangladesh (129,000) and Thailand (91,000).

Refugees in the East and Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region represent 23 per cent of the global needs at almost 560,000 refugees. The main refugee populations are from South Sudan (242,509) and the DRC (109,461), and the needs in Ethiopia and Uganda account for almost 60 per cent of the region’s figure.