01 December 2011

Australian Immigration Minister proposes 50 per cent increase on refugee intake

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Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has proposed an increase in the number of refugees granted permission to reside in Australia, from the current figure of 13,750 to as high as 20,000 people annually.

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Chris Bowen has proposed that grants to refugees looking to reside in Australia be increased by approx. 50 per cent.

The Australian Immigration Minister described the target as “an aspiration” and refused to put a timeline on the proposal.

“Australia can and should take more refugees, but there's a legitimate community expectation that there be an orderly process to do so”, the Minister said. One of the conditions the Minister indicated would need to be in place is the reinstatement of offshore processing of refugee claims for an Australia visa under a regional agreement.

The comments come following the government’s failed attempt to exact a ‘refugee-swap’ deal with Malaysia, which was blocked by Australia’s High Court, and critics have been quick to raise concerns.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison suggested the Minister “has simply lost control” and that the minority government was capitulating to the Greens and those who opposed the ‘Malaysia solution’.

Meanwhile, Julian Burnside QC, a noted refugee advocate questions the Minister’s offshore processing condition, and described it as a “very poor policy choice.”  The Australian Greens had previously adopted an increase in refugee intake as a key policy in last year’s election, in the wake of figures released by the Refugee Council of Australia revealing Australia’s intake had dropped to just 6.6% of total migration, the lowest in 35 years.

The Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) has broadly welcomed the Minister’s proposal, with CEO Maurene Horder commenting “I commend the minister for his ongoing and vocal support of a more generous, more open-minded and more multicultural Australia.”

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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