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Thursday, 9 December 1976
Page: 3673

Mr Innes asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   What persons are presently eligible to migrate to Australia as refugees.

(2)   What are the procedures adopted in their processing, and what are the criteria used to determine eligibility as a refugee.

Mr MacKellar - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The Government's policy towards the entry of refugees is governed by its obligations as a party to the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees and its acknowledgement that as a member of the international community it must accept a share of responsibility in refugee and quasi-refugee situations which often involve personal danger and loss of human dignity, basic rights and means of livelihood.

In accord with this approach the Government is prepared to do what it can to facilitate the resettlement of those refugees who can be integrated into the Australian community as well as others who though not in a strict sense refugees have been displaced and are the victims of severe privation.

The extent to which Australia can participate in these types of projects must allow for special arrangements to be made to interview applicants and must take into account the ability of any particular group of refugees or displaced persons to integrate into the community. Factors to be considered in this regard go well beyond the grant of assisted passages to Australia and include placement in employment in Australia which is significantly difficult at present and an assessment of the degree of reliance which any group may have on continuing social welfare payments and services.

Any proposal to admit refugees must be dealt with on a global basis and does not permit specific groups to be dealt with in isolation to the exclusion of other groups who may be seen as eligible to benefit from Australia's refugee policy. The essential aim, therefore, is to offer optimum assistance and avoid the intrusion of self-defeating factors such as poor employment prospects or the denial of employment opportunities which would otherwise be available to persons already in Australia.

(2)   The procedures adopted for the selection and movement of refugees and displaced persons whose entry has been approved in principle ensure that the standard migrant criteria are not imposed as this could effectively deny to the persons concerned the resettlement opportunities which the Government has offered. Health and character standards are insisted on but allowance is made for the parlous situation in which the refugees find themselves and their inability to comply strictly with rules related to occupational skills, etc.

The criteria used to determine eligibility for entry to Australia as refugees allow for the chances of resettlement in the country in which the refugees find themselves, the degree of support which would be forthcoming in that country, alternative opportunities for resettlement elsewhere more readily on the basis of language or closer association and Australia 's ability to integrate the refugees at any given dme.

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