An annual intake of 44,000 would bring an extra $37.7bn in the next 50 years, Deloitte Access Economics report finds
Increasing Australia’s annual humanitarian intake to 44,000 by 2023 would bring an extra $37.7bn to the economy in the next 50 years, a report from Oxfam Australia has said.
The increase – building on the current intake of 18,750 a year – would also sustain an average of 35,000 jobs a year, and increase demand for goods and services by $18.2bn.
The findings, by Deloitte Access Economics, were commissioned by Oxfam Australia and published in a report which called for the federal government to commit to the increase, and to also create a visa stream for 10,000 humanitarian family reunifications annually.
“I think Australians generally would agree that families – particularly those who have suffered terrible hardship and persecution – shouldn’t to be separated,” the Oxfam Australia chief executive, Lyn Morgain, said.
“I don’t think Australians need any convincing of that … but this [report] helps us understand that we would experience an economic benefit also.”
The 44,000 figure represents Australia supporting an equal share of the current number of refugees seeking resettlement around the world, along with other OECD nations.
“At the moment the bulk of refugees are being settled by low and middle income countries, like Uganda, Turkey, Bangladesh,” Morgain said.
“In 2018 less than 7% of refugees requiring settlement were successfully settled. So there is a need for the Australian community to step up as the number of displaced people increases.”
The report said the economic benefits would increase over time as humanitarian migrants settled in to life, finished education and training, and started work. This could meet labour needs in the expanding sectors of health and aged care, it added.
But at the moment, what Morgain described as an “exceptionally complex” process to reunite split families in Australia was also delaying the start of this resettlement.
In 2004 Dabessa was jailed in Ethiopia for three years, under suspicion of supporting an ethnic minority opposition. Once free, he and his wife Lelisse, both journalists, learned there were plans to arrest him again and they decided he should flee to Kenya. However, while he was in Nairobi, Lelisse was arrested and jailed.
Their three children got to Kenya, and Dabessa brought them to Australia as refugees.
“Mentally always you are thinking of the missed parent,” he told Guardian Australia.
“You aren’t active in day-to-day activities, engaging with services, or work, and you focus only on looking after the kids.”
Dabessa said he focused on study and had to rely on welfare so he could take care of his children.
“I was not productive in that time, but in terms of looking after the kids and nurturing them it was quality,” he said.
He saved what he could to send back to Ethiopia and support Lelisse while she was in jail, but after she was freed it took another three years to have her join her family in Australia.
The family had not lived safely together for nine years.
Dabessa said he was grateful for Australia’s protection but if Lelisse had been able to join them sooner it would have greatly reduced the trauma on the family, as well as allowed him to contribute to his new home country sooner.
“The more you suppress your emotions and your trauma the accumulative impact is huge. Sometimes it comes later, you don’t realise.”
Oxfam’s report noted multiple barriers to family reunification, including demand outstripping the few places under existing schemes, with the most common process seeing a ratio of 7:1.
Other barriers included the Department of Home Affairs’ “narrow” nuclear definition of a family – which is not in line with that of the UNHCR, costs of up to tens of thousands of dollars, complicated application processes, and strict evidentiary requirements for documents which may not exist in an applicant’s country of origin.
The report also highlighted the government’s blanket restrictions against refugees who sought asylum by boat.
The report cited research showing that refugees waiting for family to join them in Australia had a higher probability of mental illness or post-traumatic stress disorder and were more likely to have had no engagement in study or job training.
Oxfam said it was critical the 10,000 family reunification places supplemented but didn’t replace refugee resettlements.
“Oxfam is calling for a separate family reunification scheme that would facilitate people being able to begin the journey of getting on with their lives,” Morgain said.
“There is a very positive experience that communities across Australia have had in supporting the resettlement of refugees. Oxfam is very conscious that the best form of settlement is where people are able to quickly make a connection with a community.”
This article first appeared in https://www.theguardian.com