Eels refugees – detained by Australia’s extraterritorial immigration regime for over eight years – have landed in Vancouver and Toronto, sponsored by community groups in Canada and Australia to start a new life across the world. world.
The eight men left Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, on Thursday, joining another ex-Manus detainee who arrived in Canada a week ago.
Abdo had been evacuated from PNG to Australia before being accepted for resettlement in Canada.
âI have mixed feelings about starting this new life in Canada,â says Abdo. âIt was difficult to leave my friends in Australia. I wish I could have stayed.
“Thank you for everything [the] people who made it possible for me to become a permanent resident of Canada, I look forward to a bright future. To all my Australian friends come on [for a] visit.”
All nine have been accepted for resettlement under Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program, which allows community groups to privately sponsor refugees to resettle in Canada, in addition to the government’s humanitarian resettlement quotas. The program, which has been in existence for over 40 years, has enabled more than 300,000 refugees to start their lives in Canada again.
Six of the eight refugees who arrived in Canada on Saturday (Australian time) were resettled as part of Operation #NotForgotten, a community sponsorship partnership between the Refugee Council of Australia, the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Service of Vancouver Mosaic and the Ads Up Canada volunteer network.
The other two were sponsored by community volunteers supported by Ads Up Canada.
The eight left PNG just three weeks before Australia officially ended its eight-year offshore immigration regime in PNG. More than 100 people are still detained there by Australia.
Abdo – the Guardian chooses only to publish his first name – was incarcerated on Manus Island, evacuated to Australia with acute medical conditions, then granted a temporary visa to live in the Australian community pending resettlement. He landed in Vancouver on December 6.
Resettled people are the first in an expected steady stream of Canadian resettlement from Australia’s offshore immigration system. Four more refugees currently detained by Australia will arrive in Canada within the next month. Travel arrangements for three other newly approved applicants are currently underway.
Australians and Canadians working together
Refugee Council Chief Executive Paul Power said the resettlement of refugees within Australia’s onshore and offshore immigrant detention systems is the result of “ordinary people in Australia and Canada working together to find a solution for refugees who needed the opportunity to get along with the rest of their lives after years of abuse by the Australian government â.
âThese eight people sought refuge in Australia after escaping oppression in their home country, as was confirmed during the assessment of their refugee status,â he said.
âInstead of being helped by Australia, they were detained in appalling conditions and spent years not knowing what the future holds for them and their families.
Australians have donated more than $ 3.8 million to Operation #NotForgotten through the Refugee Council. Mosaic and Ads Up Canada have applied for sponsorship with the Canadian government and organized volunteer groups to support refugees after their arrival.
As of November 2019, applications for 156 refugees – in PNG, Australia and Nauru – and 125 separated family members have been filed under Operation #NotForgotten.
âAustralians concerned about the mistreatment of refugees sent to PNG and Nauru are very grateful to the people and government of Canada for providing a welcome and a new home to those in need of the opportunity to live in freedom and to start over, âPower said.
Iris Challoner, director of Mosaic’s private sponsorship program, says the private sponsorship program is transformative, both for refugees starting their lives in new countries and the communities in which they are welcomed.
âOur team is privileged and honored to have come to know so many Australians who are a force for the better and who defend human rights. Ordinary Australians made this unique collaboration possible; they saw the suffering and found solutions where they could. This is what makes Operation #NotForgotten unique: it is a real collaboration of civil society across the continents. “
“A team of people who become a family”
The Australian government has, for several years, speculated on the implementation of a program based on the Canadian model, which has resettled refugees since 1979.
In Canada, private sponsors, who are often community, humanitarian or faith-based groups, commit to providing income support to refugees for the first year after arrival. Currently, it costs the equivalent of A $ 21,500 to sponsor a single refugee, or A $ 36,500 for a family of five.
Other countries have adopted the model. In October, the United States, after decades of government-funded resettlement alone, announced a Circle of Sponsorship Program for Afghans, especially to help relocate more than 50,000 Afghans currently housed in military bases across the United States, some of those who took flights from Kabul as the country fell to the Taliban. Ireland, the UK and New Zealand have committed or have similar programs.
australia Community support program was launched in 2017 as a pilot program, set at 1,000 places to be drawn from Australia’s humanitarian migration program. Importantly, it was not in addition to government relocation programs – each location sponsored by a community group subtracts one from the government number.
The Australian pilot – as the government’s own reviews have conceded – is riddled with systemic flaws.
The Australian program is:
small, limited to only 1000 places per year;
expensive, more than three times the cost of comparable overseas programs, costing around $ 100,000 to sponsor a family of five, with an application fee alone of $ 19,000;
restrictive – only available to refugees between the ages of 18 and 50 who have working English and a job offer in Australia or skills that make them ‘ready to go’, and
Critical, not additional: Any community-sponsored refugee subtracts one from the government’s resettlement commitment.
The Ministry of the Interior’ own review of their existing community support program this year it has proven to be structurally flawed and ineffective in resettling large numbers of refugees.
The review, conducted by the Commonwealth’s General Coordinator for Migrant Services, Alison Larkins, said that while the CSP was “well-intentioned” it was: prohibitively expensive; does not add to the existing government humanitarian program (which was reduced to 13,750 and was less than half full last year); and consistently under-subscribed because it has failed to âtap into the goodwill and support of the wider communityâ.
The findings, presented to the government in May, indicate that “community organizations generally report being reluctant to engage in (and incur high financial costs for) sponsorship without generating places in addition to current humanitarian aid. “.
In a speech last year, Larkins said international evidence shows that “governments alone cannot make a difference.”
âIn Canada, you can see first-hand the importance of the community in creating economic participation for refugees through their community sponsorship model,â she said.
âSeventy percent of privately sponsored refugees in Canada reported employment income in their first year of arrival, compared to 40% of government-assisted refugees.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has previously said he is “a strong supporter of the community support program”.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said the government “is currently reviewing the findings of the review and plans to be able to offer an update soon.”
âThe government looks forward to turning the Australian Community Support Program into a genuine and successful partnership between community, business and government, to deliver beneficial results for our refugees and humanitarian arrivals in Australia. “
Challoner says the nature of Canada’s private sponsorship program “prepares people for success.”
âThe sponsors commit to 12 months of sponsorship support. As a result, privately sponsored refugees arrive with a built-in social support system. They have a safe, clean place to live and a team of people who become family, supporting all aspects of their settlement experience.
âDone well, private sponsorship of refugees can change attitudes around the world towards refugees, reunite separated familiesâ¦ It allows ordinary citizens to really make a differenceâ¦ to be the change they want to see. .