We have moved our Melbourne head office to Level 7, 278 Collins Street, Melbourne

Australian Federal Government to Inquire Integration and Employment of Refugees

The Australian federal government has recently announced an inquiry into the "integration, employment and resettlement" of refugees and humanitarian migrants in Australia. The review has broad ranging terms of reference that would allow the investigation of welfare & support services, employment requirements & work rights and any other factor(s) that relates to the improvement of outcomes for resettled refugees.

Prominent members have reinforced that refugees and humanitarian entrants must make valuable contributions to the Australian society and economy. The coalition can invite submissions and seek information, and may report back by late February.

The committee has significant freedom to examine all the aspects of support services and employment issues for refugees and humanitarian migrants. The idea is also to encourage integration of refugees and humanitarian entrants in the wider community, including identifying significant barriers to success. The focus of the review is those settled in Australia as refugees with equivalent rights to citizenship rather than asylum seekers. Members of committee also brought forward the idea to talk to the refugees as soon as they arrive in the country and get to know their aspirations and advise them accordingly.

However, no comments were given on the recent cuts to support for asylum seekers on temporary visas, who may potentially become refugees accessing the support services the review will recommend. It is to bring forward to last year the government began cutting down on services and welfare payments from a large cohort of asylum seekers currently on short term bridging visas, giving them work rights but removing housing support and other payments, which, according to the migrant community, will force people into homelessness and poverty. There were also questions raised on the way the decisions have been applied arbitrarily to people including the ill and elderly, despite their lower capacity to support themselves.

To add to the hard times, the parliament passed legislation forcing migrants on permanent skilled visa or family visa to wait up to four years for welfare support services and payments.

Members of the committee say that the country had clear responsibilities in building a stronger and more socially cohesive society.

On the other side, some of the members also questioned the need for the review when the joint standing committee on migration had already investigated settlement outcomes for migrants, including refugees.

The committee recommended the Jobactive program include employment support services specifically designed for newly-arrived and longer-term migrants.

For more information on this, please visit www.theguardian.com