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Refugee program increased to 20,000 places

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen today announced that the Government will increase Australia’s humanitarian program to 20,000 places in 2012-13, in line with the recommendation of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers.

The Government will also immediately allocate $10 million for regional capacity building projects with a special emphasis on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

As outlined in the recommendations of the panel chaired by former Chief of the Defence Force, Angus Houston, we will be increasing our annual refugee intake from 13,750 to 20,000 places in this financial year.

This is a more than a 40 per cent increase to our humanitarian intake and the biggest boost to Australia’s refugee intake in 30 years.

This increase is targeted to those in most need: those vulnerable people offshore, not those getting on boats.

People who arrive by boat will get no advantage. It’s not worth the risk to life and it’s not worth the money, because there is absolutely no benefit to getting on that people smuggler’s boat.

As an immediate measure, the Government will resettle an additional 400 refugees from Indonesia to underscore our commitment to offering safe alternatives to dangerous boat journeys.

We will consult with the UNHCR and regional partners to determine the allocation of the remaining resettlement places, and we expect to make further announcements on additional resettlement options from within our immediate region over the coming months.

This increase shows that people can pursue regular options and be safely referred to resettlement countries such as Australia as part of an orderly humanitarian program. Taking a dangerous boat journey is no advantage.

The $10 million boost to regional capacity building will also assist the UNHCR and non-government organisations in the region, particularly operations in Malaysia and Indonesia - a further commitment from this Government to safer and more orderly migration pathways.

The humanitarian program and capacity building increases follow the recent passage of legislation in the Australian Parliament to allow for regional processing of asylum seekers’ applications.

Australia, along with the United States and Canada, has ranked consistently among the world’s top three resettlement countries. Australia is the UNHCR’s largest resettlement country on a per capita basis.

We remain strongly committed to our humanitarian program as an engaged and leading international partner in sharing refugee protection responsibilities, assisting those most in humanitarian need.


PRESS OFFICE: (02) 6277 7744 MINISTER BOWEN’S OFFICE: (02) 6277 7860