The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national umbrella body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them. It has more than 200 organisational and over 900 individual members.
Today marks five years since the Australian government started sending everyone coming by boat to seek asylum to languish in offshore detention centres in the Pacific, never to be resettled in Australia. In those five years, 12 people have died, families have been torn apart, and over 3,000 children and adults have endured enormous mental and physical harm. Yet the Australian government celebrates the policy as a ‘success’, and other parts of the world are now looking to the Australian way as a potential ‘solution’.
This brief summarises the many changes to Australia’s refugee and asylum policies in recent years. These changes have largely been a political response to an increase in the number of people seeking asylum by boat (51,637 arrivals in the past five years) and in deaths at sea (at least 862 deaths over the same period). Both of Australia’s major political parties have responded by blocking access to protection in Australia and penalising those coming by boat.
Refugee and Humanitarian Program
Over the past 25 years, people have been supported while seeking asylum through a basic living allowance and limited casework. These support programs were designed so that people can more effectively resolve their claims for protection. In the past few years, and especially since August 2017, the Australian Government has been making it harder for people to access these support programs.
For years, Australia has been punishing people who need our protection. We have been turning back the boats which were carrying them to safety, and shipping and warehousing them in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. If they make it to mainland Australia, we have been detaining them indefinitely and, once they are released, leaving them to struggle in the community without support.
In the next few months of 2018, the Australian Department of Home Affairs plans to drastically cut support to people seeking asylum. This is likely to leave more than 7,500 people hungry and homeless, most of them living in the suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.