A+ A-

Australia’s refugee promise

In the next few months, all 12,000 additional refugees from Syria and Iraq that the Australian Government promised, in 2015, to resettle will have made a new home in Australia.

Government figures show 9,382 refugees and humanitarian entrants – over three quarters of the promised additional intake – have already been officially resettled. This is a significant increase since last September, when only 3,500 had arrived as part of the special program.

Combined with those coming under the regular humanitarian program, the latest arrivals bring the total number to 15,897 people who were displaced by conflict in Syria and Iraq and who have now been resettled in Australia between July 2015 and January 2017.

The improved time in resettling refugees has been welcomed by community groups and non-government organisations, who have previously criticised Australia for lagging in the resettlement process.

“Refugees are not taking Australian jobs but instead are creating new ones as well as bringing in new skills and creating employment. Last year, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that humanitarian migrants make twice as much money from their own businesses as people arriving on skilled and family visas.”

– Helen Szoke, Oxfam Australia’s chief executive,

Oxfam Australia’s chief executive, Helen Szoke, told The Point Magazine
“While initial progress was slow, numbers have increased significantly with the majority of the 12,000 refugees having been resettled in Australia and even more having been granted visas to resettle here. At this rate, Oxfam would expect Australia to fulfill its commitment to resettle the 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the next few months.”

“Most applications take a number of months to process. It is not possible to be more precise than this because processing time varies according to the circumstances of individual applicants,” the Department of Social Services (DSS) states on its website.

The Department told The Point Magazine that Australia was doing its part to assist with the humanitarian crisis.

“Australia has consistently ranked among the top three countries (along with Canada and the United States) that resettle refugees referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. These three countries offer around 80 per cent of the world’s humanitarian resettlement places each year.”

 

Violet Roumeliotis, CEO of Settlement Services International, told The Point Magazine there are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding the recent refugee intake. One myth that is currently circulating is that the refugee intake is putting a strain on resources in particular areas of Sydney.

“One of the best things about our humanitarian migration program is that it doesn’t dictate where new arrivals must live. It gives them the freedom to choose the areas in which they feel they have the best chance of starting life here. For some people, that’s about finding a house that’s affordable, near their work or an established cultural community. Others may already have family members living in Australia so, understandably, they want to live nearby until they become more familiar with Sydney.”

Roumeliotis is keen to correct some misleading points being repeated in the media.

“One misconception is that refugees receive higher social security payments than age pensioners. This is simply false. A refugee who has permanent residency in Australia receives exactly the same social security benefits as any Australian resident in the same circumstances. Organisations like SSI have a role to play in circulating facts to counter these misconceptions. But we can only do so much. We also rely on everyday Australians to help us disseminate this information and to call it out when they see some of these damaging claims peddled as facts. We’re lucky in that we do have a very curious populace here in Australia. My hope is, in this era of fake news and hugely influential social media channels, we can maintain that curiosity and speak up if the information we hearing about refugees does not match up with reality.”

Roumeliotis said in some cases, even where sources are cited by the media, correct data has been used to extrapolate incorrect conclusions, including the backgrounds of the refugees who have been resettled.

“During 2015-2016, our team provided support to 2,366 individuals who were predominantly part of family groups. Of these arrivals, 52% were born in Iraq, 29% in Syria and 9% in Afghanistan. Consequently, the predominant language for 82% of new arrivals was Arabic,” she said.

Szoke said Oxfam is concerned by the current rhetoric and policies on refugees around the world. She said that while Australia is improving, it could be doing more.

“Internationally, Oxfam is concerned that a new consensus is emerging to stop Syrians fleeing violence, rather than stopping the violence that is causing them to flee. Those who have fled Syria are seeing doors slammed in their faces as rich countries across the world enact policies hostile towards refugees. Since the end of January 2017, the United States and European Union member states, including the United Kingdom have changed, suspended or cancelled policies that could have seen tens of thousands of refugees offered a safe haven.”

Szoke said when discussing refugees, it is important to remember their contribution to Australian society.

“Refugees are not taking Australian jobs but instead are creating new ones as well as bringing in new skills and creating employment. Last year, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that humanitarian migrants make twice as much money from their own businesses as people arriving on skilled and family visas.”

Roumeliotis also highlighted the many benefits that refugees bring to Australia.

“Research and our own experience tells us that refugees bring a wealth of skills and experiences to Australia and make valuable contributions to the social capital of the communities where they live. Increasing access to education and employment for refugees ultimately increases social participation, confidence, and economic independence. This delivers a range of benefits such as improving the quality of life of new arrivals, strengthening communities, and addressing labour shortages in the economy.” 

The Point

The 12,000 additional refugees from Syria and Iraq that the Australian Government promised, in 2015, to resettle will have made a new home in Australia.

INTERESTED IN WRITING FOR THE POINT?

We are looking for students who are interested in writing for us.

Email Us
Back to Top

Contact Us

For all general enquiries contact:

The Editor
The Point Magazine

Email The Editor

HAVE SOME FEEDBACK?

FEEDBACK FORM
The Point Magazine logo

Follow us

  • Visit us on YouTube