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Baird Government commitment to encourage TPV refugees to move to regional areas

refugee council of aust logo


Refugee Council welcomes NSW opening doors to refugees

June 1, 2015

The Refugee Council of Australia has welcomed the commitment of the Baird Government in NSW to sign up to the Federal Government’s Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) scheme which encourages refugees to work or study in regional areas.

Paul Power, CEO of Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) said. “While there is no doubt that the visa category was developed as part of the Federal Government’s punitive response to persecuted people who arrived by boat, NSW Premier Mike Baird has demonstrated a much more constructive and welcoming attitude to refugees than his Federal counterparts in agreeing to participate,”

In his announcing the NSW Government’s policy, Mr Baird said that NSW had “an obligation to open its arm’s to those who are refugees, noting that his state would “take more than our fair share” in areas outside Wollongong, Newcastle and Sydney.

Mr Power supported the commitment saying, “It’s a strong assurance from the NSW Government to assist refugees who have been desperate to work and to contribute to their new country. We expect refugees will take up this scheme in significant numbers. We encourage other state and territory governments to follow the constructive and humane lead of Mr Baird.”

RCOA remains concerned that the SHEV scheme is a poor political compromise that fails to provide long term security to very vulnerable refugees, is inadequately resourced at the Federal level and six months on from its signing into law, does not provide the requisite detail that would allow refugees or service providers information on how it can be best employed.

“With such scant detail available, there is real concern that the Federal Government is abrogating its responsibilities to the states, local government and local service providers who have received negligible federal support to implement the scheme”, Mr Power said.

“Although the SHEV scheme allows refugees to study, the prohibitive cost of tertiary courses and no facility to provide loans or assistance to them, means there will be few who are able to actually enrol and complete their education. Without further education and training, many refugees will struggle to be able to qualify for many work opportunities. 

A substantial concern with SHEVs is the failure to provide security to vulnerable people who have been living in limbo for so long, according to Mr Power.

“All the evidence shows that people who have endured the immense challenges of fleeing persecution and surviving their asylum claims before achieving refugee status, will need a secure environment to develop in. 

“The five years provided under the SHEV does not provide this foundation and the punitive policies we have seen implemented in an ad hoc manner by recent Federal governments will provide no surety to the SHEV recipients that this scheme will continue or upon expiration, that their visas will be renewed or that permanent residency pathways will actually be available” Mr Power said.

For more information call: Tim O’Connor 0431 147 366

Tim O’Connor
Refugee Council of Australia
Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia
Phone: +61 (0)2 9211 9333.  Fax: +61 (0)2 9211 9288 Mobile: +61 (0)431 147 366

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