National Political Editor
The Daily Telegraph
MORE than 90 per cent of surveyed refugees granted permanent visas under the previous Labor government had failed to find a job within three to six months, forcing the majority to rely on government welfare to survive, a new report has revealed.
Despite 80 per cent claiming to feel “welcomed by Australia”, the social difficulties they faced were immense, according to the first government study to follow the new wave of humanitarian migrants.
Almost half reported they had never had a job in their lives, and 15 per cent had never attended school in their birth country.
Almost 40 per cent reported not understanding or speaking English, with only 10 per cent having a university degree and just 6 per cent being qualified for a trade. Only 7.8 per cent had qualifications recognised in Australia.
As a result, only 6 per cent of all those followed in the Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA) report, to be released today by the Department of Social Services, had found a job.
The main source of income for 88 per cent of the refugees at the time of reporting was government payments.
Newstart or Youth allowance payments accounted for 71.8 per cent, with 1.8 per cent on the age pension and 1.4 per cent on the Disability Support Pension. A further 19.3 per cent relied on family and parenting-related payments.
The study highlights the difficulties facing the 12,000 Syrians the government last week announced would be granted permanent visas in the wake of the humanitarian crisis flowing from civil war and terrorism in Syria.
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said it “highlighted the serious challenges that Australia had always faced when seeking to resettle refugees through the humanitarian entrance”.
“What we want is a good settlement outcome where people become part of Australia’s culture, learn the language, go to school and get a job so they can support themselves,” Mr Morrison said.
“We can’t underestimate the scale of that challenge … and the less control over the selection process, the less control you have over outcome.
“When you get this wrong the consequences are generational.
“That is why, as we seek to identify and assess and integrate 12,000 refugees into Australia, we are focusing on the persecuted minorities, which are dominated by Christian groups, and will go about the process in a systemic and measured, professional manner.
“Where you rush this, where you fail to appreciate the challenges, that is when you reap a bitter harvest.”
The study looked at 2399 refugees from over 1500 migrating families who had all been granted permanent visas in 2013 under the former Labor government. They had either arrived or been granted visas three to six months prior to the study being conducted.
The study included asylum seekers, boat arrivals and refugees classed as either women at risk, UNHRC-identified refugees, and those granted protection under the special humanitarian program.
All were from Iran, Afghanistan or Iraq.
Despite the challenges facing refugees in Australia, the majority reported positive experiences with more than 80 per cent saying it was “good” or “very good”.
The majority of all those surveyed had also enrolled in English language classes, which would boost their employment prospects.
Many refugees granted protection were regarded as having significant mental health problems, such as post-traumatic stress associated with war zones.
More than a third assessed their health as fair, poor or very poor, which was marginally higher than indigenous communities but three times higher than non-indigenous Australians.