Governments and societies around the world are under sustained and increasing pressure to address one of the greatest challenges of our times: providing protection and assistance to the rising number of people displaced across the globe. More than 65 million people are now forcibly displaced – including more than 22 million refugees.
The number of resettlement places available for refugees around the world is grossly inadequate to respond to the need. In 2017 the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) forecasted that only 93,200 places would be available in resettlement countries that year, less than 0.5% of all refugees globally, and only 8% of the refugees identified by UNHCR as in greatest need of resettlement. As a result, the responsibility for the vast majority of the world’s refugees is currently borne by less wealthy nations of the world – typically those most proximate to refugee-producing countries.
United Nations declarations and expert bodies are calling for greater responsibility sharing – which means rich countries doing more in responding to the challenge of forced migration as well as encouraging the engagement of new stakeholders, including private individuals and organisations. At the same time, we know from experience that many Australians are willing and wanting to offer their own time, money and other resources to help refugees find safety and successfully integrate in Australia.
In this context we support the efforts made by successive Australian governments in exploring community refugee sponsorship models. This has included the previous Community Proposal Pilot and its successor, the Community Support Program. However, the new program has a number of features which inhibit its potential to deliver significant benefits to refugees in need of resettlement and the Australian community.