Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says Australians should be proud of the help they provide to refugees.
09 May 2012
Humanitarian Australia visa programme renewed
As part of its federal budget released yesterday, the Gillard government has confirmed that its humanitarian programme, which grants an Australia visa to those most in need, will be renewed for another year with the same allocation.
The programme, which will run at least until 2012-13, will grant an Australia visa to 13,750 to offshore refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Asylum seeking in Australia has become a political flashpoint in recent months with the ongoing argument spiralling as record numbers of asylum seekers continue to arrive yet little is often made of the positive aspects of assisting refugees.
"Australia resettles the third largest number of refugees of any country, and we resettle more refugees per capita than any other nation," said Immigration Minister Chris Bowen.
"Australians should be proud of the part we play in providing protection to refugees."
Mr Bowen said the programme would continue to support refugees from the most vulnerable areas of the world yet acknowledged the increased demand for visas.
"Under the 2012-13 programmes, our main resettlement focus will continue to be on refugees from the three key regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
"The exceptionally high demand for visas under the humanitarian programme far exceeds the number of places available. 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."
In order to ensure visas within the humanitarian programme are allocated to the most vulnerable, Mr Bowen said Australian immigration authorities are considering a sponsorship programme which would allow members of the public to sponsor refugees' claims for asylum and therefore lower the cost.
"We will be seeking the community's views on the feasibility of introducing a private sponsorship pilot programme. We are keen to see if we can build on the goodwill towards refugees that exists in the Australia community to develop such a programme," said Mr Bowen.
"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 programme."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their applications with the Australian Embassy.