A recent change in government immigration policy and a proposition from the Minister for Home Affairs have led to concerns that race might (once again) be a contributing factor in a person’s eligibility to apply for Australian resettlement.
Because despite the fact that, in reference to the abolition of the “White Australia Policy”, the Department of Home Affairs’ website states that “Australia’s current Migration Program allows people from any country to apply to migrate to Australia, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, religion or language, provided that they meet the criteria set out in law” …
Refugees who fulfil all the relevant criteria now appear to be excluded from the private sponsorship/humanitarian resettlement program based on their country on origin.
The revelation that access to the Community Support Program (CSP)* will be confined to 8 priority countries i.e. Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Syria and Iraq means this resettlement option will no longer be available to applicants who originate from other areas of conflict and/or oppression e.g.:
- Sudan / South Sudan
Although guidelines do not explicitly restrict nationalities, sponsoring organisations have told the Guardian they have been informed of an “unofficial list” of countries of origin from which people will be considered for resettlement under the CSP. Officially, the department says, “applicants must reside in a priority resettlement country as determined by the Australian government.” And potential sponsors with links to South Sudan and Somalia have been told their applications are highly unlikely to be considered, let alone accepted.
The program is the most expensive of its kind in the world, according to the Refugee Council of Australia but the expense isn’t incurred by the Australian government. The private sponsor of an individual refugee must pay $48,000 or around $100,000 to sponsor a family of five. And for every humanitarian migrant privately sponsored, the government resettles one fewer under its program. Paul Power of the Refugee Council has stated plainly that the Australian government is “using desperate refugee families to fund its commitment that it made to resettle refugees” adding that the prioritising of certain groups makes little sense when “Eritreans in Ethiopia would be eligible, but in Sudan they would not be“.
Understandably, those from the communities negatively affected feel discriminated against, particularly when hopeful applicants fulfil all the other eligibility criteria. South Sudanese community leader Atem Jok, an engineer in Toowoomba, has been seeking to sponsor his brother and sisters, who are displaced and, registered with the UNHCR, currently based in Kenya’s massive Kakuma refugee camp . His siblings meet all the CSP requirements – of being aged between 18 and 50, having functional English (they hold postgraduate degrees) and have already been offered jobs in Australia – but now they do not meet the country of origin criteria.
“We don’t know what’s the reason, it seems absolute discrimination based around the African gangs issue in Melbourne, especially with South Sudanese being the target ethnic group. This is absolutely absurd to see my beloved country, Australia, making such decisions based around stereotyping instead of on the basis of those who are in need.”
This, along with the recent statement by the Minister for Home Affairs that his his department would apply “special attention” to the case of white South African farmers is leading many to pose the question:
Ben Doherty of the Guardian breaks down the facts in this article i.e.
- In South Africa, are young black males in urban areas at greater risk of being murdered than white farmers?
- Does the Rohingyan farming population in a situation the UN has said “bears all the hallmarks of genocide” not also warrant ‘special attention?’
If, as the facts indicate, the response to both of these is ‘yes’, how can the Australian government persist in claiming that their policies are ‘non-discriminatory‘?
When country of origin overrides the need for protection, then it seems the time for referring to such policies as ‘humanitarian‘ may be over.
* ADDENDUM ( 6 April 2018)
In an effort to ensure that the growing number of refugees have more opportunities to resettle in Australia, Amnesty International has just launched a national campaign to encourage COMMUNITY SPONSORSHIP. Called ‘My New Neighbour‘, Amnesty aims to assist communities in their endeavours by providing multiple resources and ongoing advice to facilitate the success of groups who undertake sponsorship and, supported by Australia’s major refugee advocacy groups, it’s hoped that the enthusiasm and compassion of so many Australians will mean that people who will make the most their opportunity to contribute to a free society will finally have the chance to do so.
(Sadly, this does not negate the fact that it remains the case that “applicants must reside in a priority resettlement country as determined by the Australian government.”)