Australia’s humanitarian program
Australia’s humanitarian program, which provides for the resettlement of refugees and others in humanitarian need, will be capped at 13,750 places for 2021-22 – the same as last year. This is despite calls from advocacy groups for Australia to do more in response to global displacement, and to restore the humanitarian program to its pre-COVID height of 18,750 places which was planned for 2019-20 before the pandemic disrupted international travel.
In keeping with recent years, the 2021 budget sees big spending on offshore processing. Estimated final expenditure for 2020 is over $818m, while costs for 2021 are set at close to $812m. Expenditure for the following three years (2022-2024) is projected at just over $300m annually. As of March 2021, there were 110 people held on Nauru and a further 130 held in Papua New Guinea. The Department of Home Affairs has said that a small number of these individuals have received provisional approval for resettlement in the United States. The budget item ‘IMA Offshore Management’ includes support for Nauru and Papua New Guinea ‘to provide durable migration options to transferees through resettlement, voluntarily return, and removal (for those found not to be refugees)’.
The Home Affairs budget item ‘Onshore Compliance and Detention’ is set at more than $1.2b for 2021-22, consistent with spending the previous year. This includes the management of detention facilities onshore as well as packages to assist individuals to voluntarily return to their countries of origin. An extra $464.7m has been allocated to increase capacity in detention facilities on the Australian mainland and on Christmas Island.
Dr. Claire Higgins is an historian and Senior Research Fellow at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW Law & Justice.