Cross-party group calls for many more sponsored refugees

Cross-party group calls for many more sponsored refugees

SBS World News Radio: An unlikely group of MPs from across the political spectrum is calling for a major expansion of Australia's refugee intake.  

The small, rural town of Nhill in Victoria is an example of how refugees can help create an economic revival.

Seven years ago, the town was dying.

But then it welcomed 150 refugees from Myanmar, members of the Karen ethnic community.

Nationals MP Andrew Broad says many now work in the local duck abattoirs and they are keeping the industry alive.

"The Karen in Nhill have contributed $41 million to the economy. So it's created opportunities for Australians as well as being a good example of the integration of people from refugee camps."

The Turnbull Government recently introduced a scheme allowing private companies, community groups and individuals to sponsor a thousand refugees.

The idea is to shift the cost off the government.

But, now, Mr Broad says he wants to see that dramatically expanded, from 1,000 to 10,000 places.

"I think, when you have people come from refugee camps and are integrated into Australian society and then are employed and contribute to our gross domestic product, you have every Australian saying that's how immigration should work."

Mr Broad has backed a motion to expand community sponsorship that was introduced by a Labor MP, Tim Watts.

Mr Watts says the community sponsorship model could allow thousands more refugees to come to Australia without putting any strain on the Budget.

"I think this is a real win-win model, because it lets communities dictate their contribution. If communities believe they benefit more from the program, they can try and sponsor more people. And it really gives that control to communities. It gives them a stake in this debate and a say in what they're doing."

And a Liberal MP, Russell Broadbent, has expressed his support, too.

He says the model encourages the sponsor to take an active interest in the refugee's success.

"Fairness, it's in our DNA. But we then don't carry that through internationally the way that I believe we should. And I can't stand here and say, 'Well, I can't say this, because my party will be upset with me,' because this is about relationships."

The community sponsorship program was only expanded from a small pilot to a permanent program in the Budget earlier this month.

The Department of Immigration has declined to comment on the idea of boosting it to 10,000 places.


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