Locking Migrants and Refugees Out of Australia

by Hannah Melville-Rea

The budget contributes no new funds for quarantine facilities and hinges on the rosy assumption that a population-wide vaccine program will enable us to open borders by mid-2022. Australia is not meeting last budget’s projections of a gradual return of international students and permanent migrants through the latter part of 2021, and this budget provides little hope for attracting migrants back next year.

In a shameless money grab, new migrants will be forced to wait four years before accessing most government welfare payments, saving the government $671 million over five years. What better way to make migrants feel valued? Already, hundreds-of-thousands of international students stranded in Australia without government support have had to resort to foodbanks and face heightened racism.

The government is also extending the cap on Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program of 13,750 places per year (a “ceiling rather than a target”). This foregoes $911.3 million of funding that was previously planned for humanitarian resettlement until 2024.

Meanwhile, the government is funneling an additional half a billion dollars ($464.7 million) over the next two years towards boosting detentions centres, including to Christmas Island. All signs point to locking foreigners out of Australia’s foreseeable future.

Perhaps most concerning is that this budget alters the Department of Home Affairs’ primary objectives. Instead of prioritising “the effective management of the visa, multicultural and citizenship programs and the provision of refugee and humanitarian assistance and settlement” they will pursue a broad goal of “immigration and social cohesion”. Mentions of “Australia’s economic interest” in relation to migrants have been removed from these outcomes, and instead of protecting Australia’s “sovereignty, security and safety”, the department will “protect Australia from national security and criminal threats”. This budget is hostile towards people looking to enter Australia, while wringing money out of foreigners at home.

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