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Reintegration package for Afghans announced.



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Reintegration Package for Afghans Announced MPS 38/2002

The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Philip Ruddock, today announced details of a reintegration package for Afghan asylum seekers who volunteer to return to Afghanistan.

"It is a generous package, designed to give Afghans real choices about their options upon arrival in Afghanistan. It has been estimated to be worth up to five years' annual income for the average Afghan," Mr Ruddock said.

"The package includes cash assistance of A$2000 per individual adult or child (or up to A$10,000 for a family unit comprising husband, wife and dependent children) and support services to help them return to Afghanistan and rebuild their lives."

The announcement follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Afghanistan Interim Government by the Minister and the Afghan Minister for Refugees Affairs and Repatriation, Enayatullah Nazari, in Kabul last week.

"The Afghan Interim Government has emphasised the stability and safety that has been be brought to the region, paving the way for Afghan nationals to return," Mr Ruddock said.

"The MOU represents a mutual understanding between Australia and Afghanistan for the voluntary return, with dignity and in safety, of Afghan refugees and asylum seekers who volunteer to return home."

To be eligible for the package, Afghans must have arrived in Australia, Nauru or Christmas Island on or before 16 May 2002, the date the MOU was signed.

"It applies only to Afghans in detention in Australia who have been found not be refugees, or who are still waiting for a decision on their applications for protection, and to Afghans in Nauru who are undergoing refugee status assessment, or who have received a negative assessment," Mr Ruddock said.

"My Department has arranged for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide a range of support services to returning Afghans.

"These include counselling, help in obtaining passports, arranging air travel to Kabul, facilitating access to vocational training and transport from Kabul to other locations in Afghanistan.

"The IOM will also distribute the cash assistance to returning asylum seekers after their departure for Kabul," Mr Ruddock said.

Eligible asylum seekers will have 28 days in which to accept the offer after being formally notified, or after being informed their claims have been rejected. Those who do not take up the offer in that time will lose the opportunity to accept the package.

Afghans who accepted the reintegration package would remain in their current location while travel arrangements were made, either on Nauru or in detention in Australia.

During his trip to Afghanistan, the Minister also met a number of Afghan Government Ministers and discussed a range of issues including people smuggling, border protection, and the global displacement of millions of Afghans after twenty years of conflict.

"The Australian Government has also agreed in-principle to assist in the refurbishment of the Jangalak Refugee Receiving Centre in Kabul.

"The Centre was established in the late-1980s as a transit facility for returnees but was heavily damaged during fighting in the mid-1990s.

"With thousands of refugees currently returning daily to Afghanistan, facilities such as this centre are needed now more than ever," Mr Ruddock said.

"The Centre will provide valuable initial accommodation and vocational training facilities for returnees."

The project is currently subject to a feasibility study but is likely to cost around $A1 million.

23 May 2002

Note: The UNHCR provides Afghans returning from Pakistan with US$20 each, or US$100 per family, when they arrive in Afghanistan to assist with reintegration. Once in their home provinces, they receive a UNHCR package containing plastic sheeting, mats, blankets, stove, lamp, kitchen set and hygienic kit and 150 kilograms of wheat.

Note: Photograph of the signing of the MOU in Afghanistan on 16 May is available.

Attachments:

Q&A - Voluntary Return of Afghans Reintegration Package ●

Related Information:

Fact Sheet 80. Reintegration Package for Afghans ●

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DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION AND MULTICULTURAL

AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS

Benjamin Offices, Chan Street Belconnen ACT 2615 PO Box 25 Belconnen ACT 2616 ! Telephone (02) 6264 1111 ! Facsimile (02) 6264 2747

Q&A

VOLUNTARY RETURN OF AFGHANS REINTEGRATION PACKAGE

Why has the Australian Government agreed to provide Afghans who volunteer to return to Afghanistan with a reintegration package?

• The purpose of the reintegration package is to assist individuals and families who return voluntarily, to reintegrate into Afghanistan on their return, and to rebuild their homes and their lives.

Who is eligible to receive the reintegration package?

• The package is offered to Afghans who:

" arrived in Australia on or before 16 May 2002, the date a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on voluntary returns of refugees and asylum seekers was signed by the Governments of Afghanistan and Australia; or

" who arrived or were in transit (under Australian control) to a processing centre on Nauru or Christmas Island on or before 16 May 2002;

and have been found not to be refugees or who are still waiting for a decision on their applications for protection.

What will the package offer?

The Australian Government, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), will provide:

• Cash assistance of A$2,000 per individual (adult or child) or up to A$10,000 per family unit (defined as husband/wife and dependent children) provided after departing Australia; • assistance with obtaining travel documents, including paying for passport

applications; • air fare to Kabul; • on-arrival support including access to vocational training; and • assistance with transport from Kabul to other destinations within Afghanistan if

required and possible.

2

Is there a cut-off date by which the offer must be accepted?

• Yes. Afghans, who have already been found not to be refugees and are awaiting removal, will be given 28 calendar days to make a decision after they have been formally provided with details of the offer by the Australian Government. • Afghans who have not yet had a decision will have 28 days to accept the package

from the date of notification of a negative decision on their claim. Those who apply for review will have 28 days from the date of notification of a negative review decision. • Eligible Afghans in Australia wishing to depart voluntarily before a decision is made on their claims for protection must withdraw these claims to be eligible for the cash payment. • Eligible Afghans in Nauru wishing to depart voluntarily before they are notified of the outcome of their refugee status assessment must notify DIMIA in writing to be eligible for the cash payment. • Those who do not take up the offer before the cut-off date will lose the opportunity to receive the financial assistance for reintegration.

Will individuals who choose to return voluntarily and accept the reintegration package be released from detention pending their return to Afghanistan?

• Those who accept the package will remain in their current location, either remaining in an immigration detention facility in Australia or accommodated in an offshore processing centre, until they are returned.

When and where will the financial assistance be provided to those Afghans who volunteer to return?

• The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will provide the assistance in US dollars to returning asylum seekers after departure from Australia.

Will the Government provide financial assistance to help other groups to return voluntarily to their country of origin?

• The Government has agreed to offer financial assistance to support the return of Afghans and people of other nationalities on Nauru and Manus Island to their countries of origin or third countries to which they have permission to enter.

How will Afghan nationals who volunteer to return to Afghanistan be returned?

• Depending on their location, the number of people being returned and availability of flights, Afghans who volunteer will be returned by either charter aircraft or by commercial airlines flying to Kabul.

How long after accepting the package, will people be returned to Afghanistan?

• Returns to Afghanistan will depend on when people volunteer to return, the availability of valid passports and the frequency of flights. Every effort will be made to organise returns as soon as possible.

3

Will individuals be advised in writing of their eligibility for the package?

• Yes. All eligible people will be written to and provided with information about the offer of voluntary return and the reintegration package.

Will individuals need to advise DIMIA in writing?

• If an Afghan asylum seeker wishes to volunteer to return to Afghanistan before a decision is made they will need to notify DIMIA in writing to receive the financial assistance.

If the offer is accepted, does notification of this decision include the members of the family unit?

• Yes. If Afghan asylum seekers accept the offer and notify DIMIA of their decision, all members of their family unit (husband/wife and dependent children) who have not made claims in their own right are to be included in the form notifying the decision and processing of their refugee claims will cease.

Can a person who has accepted the offer later change their mind?

• An asylum seeker can change his or her mind if he or she no longer wants to return to Afghanistan. However the financial assistance will not be offered at a later date. This notification must be received in writing.

What if Afghan asylum seekers are being processed by UNHCR?

• For Afghans in Nauru, if the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is assessing or has assessed claims, asylum seekers must also let UNHCR know that they want to leave and accept the offer to return voluntarily to Afghanistan.

Will IOM be involved in other aspects of the return arrangements and why?

• In light of the IOM’s extensive experience with assisted returns, the Government will utilise the organisation’s services for most aspects of the package, including counselling, facilitation of travel documentation, ticketing, travel, reception upon arrival and disbursement of on-arrival assistance.

What other assistance will Australia provide?

• In addition to meeting all the costs associated with voluntary return, Australia in cooperation with IOM, will provide counselling and support services on arrival and facilitate access to vocational training.

DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION AND MULTICULTURAL AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS

80. REINTEGRATION PACKAGE FOR AFGHANS

On 23 May 2002, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Philip Ruddock, announced details of a reintegration package available to Afghan asylum seekers who volunteer to return to Afghanistan.

The announcement followed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Afghanistan Interim Government by the Minister and the Afghan Minister for Refugees Affairs and Repatriation, Enayatullah Nazari, in Kabul on 16 May 2002.

Afghan asylum seekers who volunteer to return will receive a package of reintegration assistance that includes the provision of A$2,000 per individual (adult or child) or up to A$10,000 per family (defined as husband/wife and dependent children). They will also receive a range of support services to help re-establish their lives in Afghanistan.

Eligibility The package is available to Afghan asylum seekers whose claims for protection are currently being processed and to those who have been found not to be refugees.

This includes people who arrived in Australia, Nauru and the regions excised from the Migration Zone, such as Christmas Island, on or before 16 May 2002, when the MOU was signed.

Afghans who arrive after this date will NOT be eligible for the reintegration assistance package.

Support services The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) has arranged for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide a range of support services to returning Afghan asylum seekers.

The IOM will also distribute the cash assistance to asylum seekers after their departure for Kabul.

IOM services include counselling, help in obtaining passports, arranging air travel to Kabul, reception upon arrival, facilitating access to vocational training and help with transport from Kabul to other destinations within Afghanistan if required.

Travel will be by charter aircraft or commercial airlines flying to Kabul.

While every effort will be made to organise flights as soon as possible, the date of travel from Australia or Nauru will depend on when people volunteer, on the availability of valid passports and frequency of flights.

Cut-off date Asylum seekers will have a limited period in which to accept the offer:

• Afghans who have already been found not to be refugees and are awaiting removal, will be given 28 calendar days to make a decision after they have been formally provided with details of the offer.

• Afghans in Australia who have not yet had a decision made on their application for protection will have 28 days to accept the package from their notification of a negative decision on their application.

• Afghans in Nauru will have 28 days to accept the offer from the date they are notified of a negative refugee status assessment.

• Those who apply for review of a negative primary decision will have 28 days from the date of notification of a negative review decision.

All eligible Afghans will be written to and provided with information about voluntary return and details of the reintegration package.

Afghans wishing to depart voluntarily before a decision is made on their claims for protection, must withdraw these claims in writing, to be eligible for the reintegration package.

Those who do not take up the offer before their relevant cut-off date will lose the opportunity to accept the package.

Status maintained Those who accept the package will remain in their current location.

This means that those in detention in Australia will remain in detention; those in Nauru or Christmas Island will remain there until travel arrangements are made and a date for their departure is set.

Information on Australian immigration matters is available through DIMIA's Internet homepage: http://www.immi.gov.au

FACT SHEET

The Department also operates a 24-hour national telephone enquiry line on 131 881, for the cost of a local call anywhere in Australia.

Fact Sheet 80. Produced by the Public Affairs Section, Department Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, Canberra. 23 May 2002.