Australia’s Community Support Program will introduce a number of refugee resettlement programs that apparently will prioritize migrants from eight countries and potentially decline applications from three other countries.
The countries that made it to the priority list include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile South Sudan, Somalia and Iran which were previously considered would not be open to the program.
The decision to deny refugee application to these three countries has been met with criticism from several migrant community groups and is seen as a sign of “clear discrimination”.
For 2018, the Community Support Program will offer 1,000 places for resettlement. Additionally, it will allow community groups, businesses, families and individuals to sponsor a refugee for resettlement in Australia. According to the organization’s guidelines applicants to the program must be residing in a resettlement country as identified by the Australian government.
The Department of Home Affairs said priority countries in the Community Support Program are determined by the government every year:
“People in humanitarian situations from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia continue to be a resettlement priority under Australia’s 2017-18 humanitarian program.”
Australia’s Community Support Program was patterned after Canada’s private sponsorship program whereby the sponsor would commit to pay for one year’s social security, housing, clothing and food in order for the refugee to reside in the country. The cost of sponsoring a refugee in Canada is estimated at $30,000.
By contrast in Australia, sponsoring an individual refugee would cost $48,000 and $100,000 for a family of five.
However, there is a one-to-one trade-off whenever a refugee is privately sponsored. This has led to the government foregoing on its commitment to directly resettle refugees and instead outsource the responsibility to private individuals or community groups.
Paul Power from the Refugee Council of Australia does not understand how a program as expensive as Australia’s resettlement scheme comes up with the bases for choosing one migrant group over another:
“It’s very hard to understand the rationale for prioritizing certain groups of refugees over others; why Eritreans in Ethiopia would be eligible but in Sudan they would not be.”