Australia delivers on refugee commitments

Source: Government of Australia
Posted on: 2nd September 2009

Refugees from Iraq and Burma comprised about 40 per cent of the 13 507 refugees and other people in greatest humanitarian need who were granted visas to start a new life in Australia in 2008-09, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said today.

‘This is directly in line with commitments made by the Australian Government in June 2008 to resettle 13 500 people who had fled their homes in search of safety, an increase of 500 places on the 2007-08 program,’ Senator Evans said.

Current priority regions are Africa, Asia and the Middle East (including south-west Asia), with just over 33 per cent of humanitarian visas granted overseas going to each.

‘Iraqis were the largest group in the 2008-09 humanitarian program with 2874 visas granted – including 500 additional refugee places that were reserved for this group last program year in recognition of their critical resettlement needs,’ Senator Evans said.

Senator Evans said the groups resettled included many who have been living in protracted refugee situations, the forgotten refugees who have been in limbo for many years with no hope of returning to their home country.

The second-largest group resettled were Burmese, most of whom had been living in camps along the Thai-Burma border for more than 20 years. This group also included more than 100 Burmese Rohingya who have been living in the Cox’s Bazaar region of Bangladesh since 1992.

Other significant groups resettled in the 2008-09 were Afghans, Sudanese, Bhutanese, Ethiopians, people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalis, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans.

Senator Evans said that particularly vulnerable refugee women and their children continued to be a high priority within the program. More than 12 per cent of refugee visas were granted within the “woman at risk” category, exceeding the 10.5 per cent target. From 2009-10, this target will be increased to 12 per cent of all refugee visas granted.

More than 81 per cent of the program comprised people who applied for resettlement overseas, with 2497 visas granted to people who applied for asylum from within Australia.
The minister said Australia remained a world leader in humanitarian resettlement, both in terms of numbers resettled and the services provided to help them rebuild their lives.

‘The program will continue to grow in the year ahead, with an increase of 250 places building on the 2008-09 increase, to bring the total program to 13 750 for 2009-10,’ Senator Evans said. ‘Our ongoing efforts to help vulnerable populations are a clear demonstration of our nation’s compassion for those in need.’

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