DATE : 14 May 2008
MANY POSITIVES IN BUDGET FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
Dr Berhan Ahmed, Chairperson of the African Think Tank, said there were “plenty of positives” in the Rudd Government’s first Federal Budget, but stressed that helping to reunite the families of refugees remains a vital element in the resettlement process.
Dr Ahmed said it was understandable that a certain proportion of the extra 6,500 places in the Family migrant stream would go to more established migrant communities, “but I hope the door is not closed on refugees desperately seeking to reunite dispersed families.”
Overall, the Humanitarian Program is increasing to 13 500 in 2008-09, including 6,500 offshore refugee places. The offshore component of the 2008-09 Humanitarian Program will focus on refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Dr Ahmed said the increase in Australia’s refugee and humanitarian intake was a timely affirmation of the country’s commitment to its international obligations.
“But even more importantly, each additional acceptance of a displaced person represents an act of life-changing proportions,” Dr Ahmed said. “We should never forget that this is where the true value lies.”
Dr Ahmed said the decision to abolish the Temporary Protection visa (TPV) regime for asylum seekers was a particularly welcome development.
“It is wonderful to hear that from early 2008-09, people found to be refugees will receive a permanent visa, regardless of their mode of arrival,” Dr Ahmed said. “Under previous arrangements, refugees were seriously disadvantaged in terms of access to services, employment and income assistance.”
“When combined with the four year investment of $40 million for the Employment Pathways Program and $9.2 million for Traineeships in English and Work Readiness, the prospects of a smoother transition for refugees and humanitarian entrants into Australian working life appear brighter.”
Dr Ahmed said he also looked forward to hearing the outcome of a review of the temporary skilled migration program.
“There is no doubt that misuse of the existing 457 Visa scheme has resulted in cases of exploitation of migrant workers,” Dr Ahmed said. “Clearly, stricter safeguards need to be enforced to improve the integrity of the scheme.”
Dr. Berhan Ahmed, Chairperson, African Think Tank Inc
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