Citizenship valued by Migrants and Refugees, Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health Co-manager says

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“Australia’s history is one of migration and we need to ensure that the path to citizenship is directed towards inclusion, not a method of exclusion,” Alison Coelho Co-Manager of the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health said today.

The Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health aims to improve the health and well-being of people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, asylum seekers and mobile populations. Recent announcements by the federal government to change three aspects of criteria for citizenship could disproportionately affect refugees negatively.

“Migration has bought so many economic and social benefits to Australia. Our prosperity post colonisation and our highly sought after way of life have been intrinsically linked to the benefits gained from a history of migration.” Alison said.

“We know that refugees are amongst the most passionate advocates of Australia and the Australian way of life. Many refugees have overcome astonishing hardships to get here.” She said.

Changes proposed include a more strident citizenship test and a new limit of three attempts to complete the test. Applicants will now need to be permanent residents for four years. This will make the path to citizenship longer for people wanting to make Australia their home. English language testing which focusses on demonstrating integration is also a part of the proposed changes.

“Recent research from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship highlights that refugees who become citizens are amongst the most integrated, enthusiastic and loyal in their feelings for Australia and rarely return to their home countries,” Alison said.

“These other changes will create new hurdles in a long process that may prevent some prospective applicants it will either take longer or stop them becoming citizens at all,” she said. “Deterring people such as, international students, skilled migrants and refugees who want to contribute to Australia’s growth”.

The 2016 Scanlon report emphasises that the majority of Australians support immigration from a broad range of countries.

“New Zealand does not have a citizenship test, and there is no evidence of this causing harm to New Zealand society.” She said.

“A system that makes citizenship too difficult to attain may lead to divisions, between citizens and people who have become excluded from the process. We encourage the government to take the position that sees the path to citizenship as the last step on a journey that celebrates inclusion in our wonderful, multicultural society,” she said.

For further comment or interview please contact Matt Loads on 0403011174




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