Harriet Spinks and Cat Barker
Migration and Humanitarian programs
A key Budget announcement in the Immigration and Border
Protection portfolio each year is the planning figures for the coming year’s
Migration and Humanitarian Programs. In 2016–17 the size and composition of
these programs will remain substantially unchanged from 2015–16. There will be
190,000 places made available to permanent migrants in the Migration Program—of
these, 128,550 places will be set aside for skilled migrants, 57,400 for family
stream migrants and 565 for migrants in the special eligibility stream (former residents who have maintained close ties with Australia). These are exactly the same as last year’s planning figures in terms of both the
size of the total program and its composition. The total planning figure
of 190,000 places has remained the same since 2012–13. The Migration Program planning figure has never exceeded 190,000 places, so
this marks five years of the program being maintained at a record high level.
The planning figure for the Humanitarian Program, under
which Australia offers permanent protection to refugees and others in
humanitarian need, also remains unchanged at 13,750 places. The Humanitarian Program has remained at this level for several years, with the
exception of a brief increase to 20,000 places in 2012–13. The Government has committed to gradually increasing the size of the program so
that by 2018–19 there will be 18,750 places available. However, this increase
is not due to begin until 2017–18. The Government is also making
available an additional 12,000 places for humanitarian entrants from Syria. These places, which were originally announced in September 2015, are additional
to the annual allocation of 13,750 places under the Humanitarian Program. Progress in processing refugees from Syria to fill this allocation has so far
been slow, and the exact timeframe for filling the quota remains unclear—the
Immigration Department advised a Senate Estimates hearing in February 2016 that
200 people had been granted a visa under this allocation, and only 26 had
actually arrived in Australia. This measure was allocated
funding of $827.4 million over four years in the 2015–16 Mid-Year Economic
and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).
Adult Migrant English Program
The 2016–17 Budget includes a measure which will redesign
the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), which offers English language
training to newly arrived migrants and humanitarian entrants. There is very
little funding associated with the redesign of the program—it is expected to
incur savings of $0.9 million in 2017–18 and expenses of $0.8 million across
2018–19 and 2019–20. However the redesign of
the AMEP is a significant announcement and appears to align with the
Government’s focus on getting people into employment in this Budget. The stated
purpose of the redesign is ‘... to improve client participation, English language
proficiency, and employment outcomes’. This announcement
follows the release of an evaluation of AMEP in 2015, which suggested areas in
which improvements could be made to the program. Further details on the ‘revised business model’ for the AMEP, which will come
into effect on 1 July 2017, have been published on the website of the
Department of Education and Training. Features of the reformed
program will include access to additional hours of training for certain
eligible clients, increased flexibility in curriculum choice and service
delivery for providers, trialling a competitive model for AMEP providers, and
increasing connections with other government employment and education services.
Also of note is the overall funding allocation for the AMEP in
this Budget. The 2015–16 Budget allocated additional funding of $14.5 million
to extend access to the program to holders of temporary humanitarian visas (Temporary Protection Visa, Safe Haven Enterprise Visa or Temporary
(Humanitarian Concern) Visa). This funding was
announced as a one-off measure for 2015–16. Increased funding has been
maintained for 2016–17 and across the forward estimates. However, this increased funding is part of the additional funding announced in
MYEFO for the additional humanitarian entrants from Syria, so whether funding
is available to continue to provide access to AMEP for temporary humanitarian
visa holders beyond 30 June 2016 remains unclear.
Detention and offshore processing
Of interest in the Immigration and Border Protection
portfolio over the last several years has been funding for immigration
detention and offshore processing of irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs). The
detention and processing of IMAs, both onshore and offshore, has been
increasingly expensive, with costs in this area tending to be difficult to
accurately predict. Spending grew significantly between 2009–10 and 2013–14, although
the Coalition Government forecast significant reductions in spending in the
The 2016–17 Budget allocates an additional $61.5 million, in
2016–17 only, to support regional processing arrangements. This builds on the additional funding of $342.1 million over two years that was
provided in MYEFO for this purpose. This additional funding,
in MYEFO and in this Budget, illustrates the difficulty in accurately
predicting costs in this area. The 2015–16 Budget provided for spending of
$810.8 million for IMA Offshore Management in 2015–16. However, the 2016–17 budget papers indicate that estimated actual spending in
this area was almost $1.1 billion. Nevertheless, the
Government once again predicts that spending in this area will decline
dramatically over the forward estimates, with budgeted spending down to $370.4
million by 2019–20. It is unclear what
impact the recent decision by the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG)
concerning the processing centre on Manus Island, and the PNG Prime Minister’s
subsequent announcement that the centre will be closed, will have on spending
in this area.
The 2016–17 Budget does anticipate savings in relation to onshore
immigration detention, with the announcement that three onshore detention
centres will be closed, resulting in savings of $68.2 million over five
years. There is also a revenue
component to this measure arising from the planned sale of Commonwealth land at
Maribyrnong and Villawood. However, the amount of revenue expected to be raised
is commercial-in-confidence and therefore not for publication. It is unknown exactly how much land at these sites will be sold, or when this
is expected to happen. While ongoing savings will be made as a result of the
closure of these three detention centres, additional money has been allocated
to the onshore detention network to fund capital projects. The allocation of
$80.1 million in capital funding over two years will go towards upgrading
security and building additional accommodation at selected centres.
In what has become in recent years a regular feature of
Commonwealth budgets, the 2016–17 Budget also includes mainly short-term
extensions of funding for existing counter-people smuggling and maritime
surveillance activities. The funding comprises
$19.6 million over two years for the Department of Defence to cover the
net additional cost of extending Operation Resolute (which includes support to
Operation Sovereign Borders); $9.2 million over four years for the
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to continue international engagement
(redirected from a portfolio efficiencies measure); $9.1 million over two
years to continue Australian Border Force postings in Indonesia, Malaysia and
Sri Lanka; and $1.3 million annually from existing Department of Immigration
and Border Protection resources to continue funding for the Bali Process
Regional Support Office.
P Dutton (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection), Budget 2016: Strengthening our borders and boosting jobs and growth, media release, 3 May 2016.
H Spinks, ‘Migration
and humanitarian programs’, Budget review 2015–16, Research paper
series, 2014–15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2015.
J Phillips, ‘Migration
program’, Budget Review 2012–13, Research paper, 9,, 2011–12, Parliamentary
Library, Canberra, 2012.
P Dutton, op.cit.
J Phillips and E Karlsen, ‘Migration and Humanitarian Programs’, Budget
review 2014–15, Research paper series, 2013–14, Parliamentary Library,
H Spinks, ‘Migration
and humanitarian programs’, op. cit.
P Dutton, op. cit.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), ‘Australia’s
response to the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis’, DIBP website.
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs legislation Committee, Proof
committee Hansard, 8 February 2016, p. 33.
economic and fiscal outlook 2015–16, p. 190.
Australian Government, Budget measures:
budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, p. 75.
ACIL Allen Consulting, AMEP
Evaluation, final report to the Department of Education and Training,
Melbourne, ACIL Allen Consulting, Melbourne, May 2015.
Department of Education and Training (DET), ‘Revised business model for the Adult Migrant English Program’, DET website.
H Spinks, ‘Responding
to unauthorised arrivals’, Budget review 2015–16, Research paper
series, 2014–15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2014.
Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2016–17: budget related paper no. 1.5: Education and Training
H Spinks, ‘Responding
to unauthorised arrivals’, op. cit.
Australian Government, Budget measures:
budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, p. 125.
Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2015–16, op.cit., p. 188.
H Spinks, ‘Responding
to unauthorised arrivals’, op.cit.
budget statements 2016–17: budget related paper no. 1.11: Immigration and
Border Protection Portfolio, p. 27.
P O’Neill (Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea), Manus
Regional Processing Centre will close, media release, 27 April 2016.
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, op. cit., p. 123.
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, op. cit., p. 170.
C Barker, ‘Border
protection and counter-people smuggling measures’, Budget review 2015–16,
Research paper series, 2014–15, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2015.
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2016–17, op. cit., pp. 74, 99,
All online articles accessed May 2016.
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