As the world marks World Refugee Day, the federal government is being urged to adopt a Canadian-style program that would allow everyday Australians to form groups and sponsor refugees.
The call comes as the United Nations this week revealed global displacement is at an all-time high with almost 80 million people – more than three times Australia’s population – currently displaced, nearly double the number a decade ago.
Save the Children, a member of the Community Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (CRSI), is urging the Australian government to implement a community sponsorship program similar to Canada’s, which has brought in more than 320,000 additional refugees over the past 40 years. Importantly, this has been in addition to the government funded humanitarian intake.
Save the Children Australia Deputy CEO Mat Tinkler said:
“We are seeing an unprecedented and alarming rise in the number of people fleeing their homes because of war, political unrest, disasters and other catastrophes. We know this has a harrowing impact on children in particular, who’ve had their childhoods ripped out from under them.
“Community sponsorship enables groups of compassionate and motivated Australians to help transform the lives of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet by bringing them to Australia, and providing an incredible level of support once they get here.
“Through CRSI, we have been able to show the Australian government how a Canadian style model would work in Australia – how it would be a win-win for local communities and refugees, how it would be sustainable and affordable.
“Australia has a great refugee resettlement model, and we certainly have the means. All that is needed now is the political will.”
Specifically, the CRSI model involves a cost sharing arrangement between community groups and the government, with communities covering the initial costs of resettlement like food, living expenses and clothing, while expensive visa fees are waived and things like education, Medicare and English language tuition is covered by the government.
“As Australia emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, it should follow the lead of the Canadians, New Zealand and many others, by implementing a genuine community sponsorship program.
“Canada has shown us how effective this can be, as ordinary citizens work together to support new arrivals with accommodation, education, employment and so many other things. It helps refugees settle into their new lives and utilises the incredible kindness of local communities.
“We’ve seen unbridled compassion from everyday Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic – lets harness this to help address the global displacement crisis.”