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Opposition mistake on refugee intake

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M e d i a R e l e a s e

The Hon, Philip Ruddock MP Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Telephone: (06) 277 7360 Facsimile: (06)-273 4144

MRS 89/96


The Opposition is either hypocritical or has demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the structure of its own refugee and humanitarian intake, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock said today.

'The Opposition has mistakenly suggested family reunion applicants will be moved into the refugee and humanitarian program, displacing bona fide refugees," Mr Ruddock said.

"The reality is that the dependents of refugee and humanitarian entrants have always been counted as part of that program, except where they have not been declared on the original application."

Of the 13,632 Humanitarian arrivals in 1994-95 under Labor, 5,116 were principal applicants, meaning the remaining 8,516 places went to the immediate family of Refugee, Special Assistance and Special Humanitarian entrants.

'The Government had moved to end an anomaly in the treatment of some refugees and their spouses and dependent children, who because of separation are unable to travel with the refugee initially," Mr Ruddock said.

'The impact upon the program is believed to be at worst, marginal."

If the family had travelled with the refugee, they would be treated as refugees, meaning the Government pays for airfares and does not impose fees. If however, the refugee's family was separated and later reunited, Labor required the family to be entered under family reunion, meaning they had to pay fees and airfares.

The Government introduced Regulations to ensure the refugee's spouse and dependent children could come under the refugee program at a later date. Labor refused to allow this. *

Resources are still required to provide specialist services to refugee families, even if they arrive later, so I decided that they should be counted as part of the refugee program. This will affect small numbers but ensure Australia responds to refugee and

humanitarian entrants with the compassion they deserve.

26 December 1996

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