Community refugee sponsorship trial begins

Brendon O'Connor

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’Connor


For the first time, community organisations such as ethnic groups, church groups, and NGOs can nominate people at risk in overseas locations for resettlement here in Australia.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Brendan O’Connor on June 3 announced the start of a community proposal pilot for up to 500 visa places under Australia’s humanitarian program.

The Gillard Government’s community proposal pilot is for individuals and families in humanitarian situations outside Australia who have links with established communities and networks in Australia.

“We are now acting on the calls of community groups to give organisations an opportunity to nominate people at risk overseas to be reunited with family or friends here in Australia,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Under the pilot, communities in Australia may be able financially contribute to bring those individuals or families to live permanently in Australia.

“The pilot will encourage stronger partnership between community organisations and the government in the resettlement of people.

“It will also build on the goodwill that we know exists in our communities and will facilitate the reuniting of families.”

Community groups or organisations in Australia will work with approved proposing organisations to identify, propose and support humanitarian entrants under the pilot.

Approved proposing organisations are organisations that have entered into a contractual arrangement with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to propose visa applicants under the pilot.

They are expected to have well-established community links, governance and infrastructure frameworks and be willing to support applicants from a diverse range of community groups.

In their August 2012 report, the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, chaired by retired Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, encouraged the Government to utilise opportunities for a community based program to expand the Humanitarian Program in a productive and cost-effective way.

“We hope that this pilot will be a success, and after an evaluation, I would hope to establish a fully-fledged scheme in future years,” Mr O’Connor said.

Australia has resettled close to 800 000 refugees and other people in humanitarian need since the end of the Second World War.

“I am hopeful that this innovative program will further consolidate this proud tradition,” Mr O’Connor.

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