Countries ‘unofficially’ excluded by refugee program

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HUMANITARIAN migrants from certain countries will be denied access to Australia through the government’s sponsorship-based resettlement program, according to refugee advocates.

According to The Guardian, which first reported on this, the eight prioritised countries include Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Myanmar and Syria.

But people from Iran, South Sudan and Somalia will not be able to enter Australia under the program.

Samuel Dariol from the Refugee Council of Australia told that settlement service providers had been given an unofficial “list” of countries that would be considered for the Community Support Program.

He noted that Somali, Sudanese and Iranian refugees were specifically not included on this list, suggesting they would not be considered for resettlement under the program.

The Community Support Program offers up to 1000 places to refugees, who are included in the annual 16,250 quota of its regular humanitarian intake program.

Dariol said it’s more clear-cut than just a matter of priority, saying it was highly unlikely – if at all possible – for people from countries not listed to come to Australia.

“What’s strange is the inconsistency around the eligibility,” he said. “If you’re Eritrean and coming from Kenya you’re not eligible, but if you’re from Eritrean coming from Ethiopia you are.”

Dariol said the Refugee Council had received this information from various refugee community leaders and service providers, and stressed that this had been communicated verbally, rather than in written documentation.

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs told the program does not discriminate by race, saying no nationality was excluded from consideration.

“Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program is non-discriminatory and has the flexibility to respond to emerging humanitarian situations,” the spokesperson said.

“No nationality is excluded from consideration, but the Australian Government does establish priorities each program year based on a range of inputs including NGO and community views put forward through the annual program consultations.

“The priorities under the CSP align with those for the broader refugee and humanitarian program.”

Dariol said the Community Support Program was problematic for a number of other reasons.

For one thing, he said private or community-sponsored individuals count as part of the overall refugee intake.

“It’s the most expensive program in the world, and it counts as part of the refugee intake – so basically the government is just outsourcing the costs to the sponsor,” he said.

Sponsoring an individual refugee is estimated to cost up to $48,000, and up to $100,000 to cover visa and resettlement fees for a family of two adults and three dependent children for one year.

Dariol also said the entrance criteria was too strict, stressing that the program should be based on need.

“There’s really strict criteria for it… [refugees] need an offer of employment, to be 18-50, they need to speak English… and now we’re seeing the criteria grow even stricter.”

Earlier this year, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed Victorians were too afraid to leave their homse due to “African gang violence”.

He said the government needed to “weed out the people who have done the wrong thing”, including deporting people who were not Australian citizens.

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