15 Dec 2012

New sponsored programme for refugees

11:28 am on 15 December 2012

A new programme is to enable community groups and individuals sponsor refugees who want to resettle in Australia, subject to a visa charge of at least $A20,000.

AAP reports the programme will be trialled from early next year.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said up to 500 people could be resettled through the pilot, as part of a federal government plan to lift the number of places in Australia's humanitarian program to 20,000.

"There has been considerable community and sector support for a private sponsorship scheme as a way of reuniting families and providing another safe pathway for refugees to start a new life in Australia," Mr Bowen said in a statement on Saturday.

The pilot programme would "build on community goodwill" by allowing community groups and individuals to play a role in resettling refugees, he said.

Sponsors would be subject to a two-stage visa application charge between $A20,000 - $A30,000, depending on family composition, as well as airfares and medical screening costs.

AAP reports they would also be required to provide humanitarian settlement support for up to a year.