Greens propose private sponsorship program for new refugees


Private citizens could sponsor up to 10,000 new refugees each year, under a Greens plan.

The Greens have proposed establishing a program where Australians can sponsor individual refugees, taking in an additional 10,000 people per year who have been displaced around the world.

Based on a Canadian model, the program would allow private citizens to provide financial support and settlement assistance for one year after arrival, or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient.

The initiative was one of several points in the Greens' refugee policy platform launched on Thursday.

SBS News spoke to veteran barrister-turned-Greens candidate Julian Burnside about the policy, who talked up the idea of "letting members of our community sponsor individual refugees".

Greens candidate for Kooyong Julian Burnside speaks to the media.
Greens candidate for Kooyong Julian Burnside speaks to the media.

"It means that even if the government imposes a rigid cap on the numbers, some individual members of the community may, for whatever reason, want to bring a particular refugee into the country and they would effectively bear the cost of doing that," he said. 

According to Greens material, private sponsors "will be able to target specific refugee cohorts they are interested in supporting".

The Greens praised the Canadian private sponsorship model, which has been in place since 1979 and has seen the resettlement of approximately 300,000 refugees.

"Canada has reported better employment and social outcomes achieved by privately sponsored refugees over government-assisted refugees, with privately sponsored refugees ... earning more than Canada's average income after 20 years," Greens material states.

Other measures

Community sponsorship was one of several measures the party committed to on Thursday, including upping the current annual humanitarian refugee intake from 18,750 to 50,000 places per year.

Mr Burnside said this was important as "Australia is one of the richest countries in the world and we are not taking our fair share".

The Green also re-floated the idea of a royal commission into Australia's immigration detention facilities.

A protester holds a placard during the Evacuate Manus and Nauru Protest.
A protester holds a placard during the Evacuate Manus and Nauru Protest.

Mr Burnside said this was necessary to "to expose all the wickedness that has happened under the guise of border protection".

He said both Labor and the Coalition had "put people in conditions which would not be tolerated in our jail system, and holding them there for years on end ... just putting them away and hoping the country will forget about them".

Other measures, some of which have been promoted by the party before, included ending offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru, establishing "a regional solution for people seeking asylum" and introducing a seven day limit for onshore detention.

Mr Burnside said refugees and border security would be one of the biggest issues at the 2019 election.

"Except I wouldn't call it border security, because frankly, I don't think it's a security question. Maybe national kindness would be another tag for it?" he said.

"Are we a fundamentally decent country or do we want to mistreat innocent human beings?"

On Wednesday, Mr Morrison visited Christmas Island to spruik the reopening of its detention centre. In the wake of the medevac bill, the government announced plans it would send sick patients from Manus Island and Nauru there instead of the mainland.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Christmas Island.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Christmas Island.

"I think those who thought that this would be some easy passage to the mainland and would seek to try and take advantage and game the system, well, I think they are getting a very clear message that it won't be as simple as that," Mr Morrison said.

"They will come here to Christmas Island and this is where they will receive that assessment."

Burnside versus Frydenberg

Mr Burnside announced this week he would run against treasurer Josh Frydenberg in the Victorian seat of Kooyong.

The pair have already clashed on refugee policies. Mr Frydenberg slammed Mr Burnside for a tweet where he linked the government's border policies and a quote from Nazi Hermann Goering.

"I think any equation of what we're doing to put in place strong borders, indeed that is respected around the world, which has worked, which has saved lives at sea, enabled us to remove all children from detention. They are policies that have worked," Mr Fredenbeg told the Australian.

“And to equate that with what happened with the Nazis and the Second World War is totally abhorrent and inexcusable."

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