Anglicare has expressed concerns about the changes to Citizenship laws in a recent Senate inquiry. Stating the unjust nature of some of the proposed changes, the church charity has urged the Government to rethink some of its proposed policies.
“Our refugee and asylum seeker clients long for a day where they can proudly call themselves Australian citizens. Many are stateless, with no secure home to return to, and Australian citizenship will be the only national citizenship they will ever hold. We are concerned that despite the rhetoric of the ‘fair-go’, our Federal Government is making it harder for these people to become citizens of this country,” says Sue King, Research and Advocacy Manager.
“We are concerned that the proposed English competency test could be at odds with the overarching principles of inclusivity and equality of opportunity that should be at the heart of the review process.
“We cannot support measures that unfairly discriminate between different migrant and refugee groups in Australia by screening prospective citizens on criteria that do not accurately assess their commitment to Australia and its people.
“Migrants and refugees with a basic understanding of English, who gradually improve their language skills over many years, for a variety of reasons, should not be precluded from citizenship.
“We agree that language is important for economic participation and social cohesion, but we believe that can be achieved even with a basic level of the English language. We urge the Government to recognise that people with minimal English skills have much to offer Australian society and can function and contribute effectively within the community.
The organization also raised concerns about the proposed amendment where the Minister could determine a person ineligible to sit the citizenship test if they have previously failed the test as well as the narrow definition of integration.
“There should be measures that differentiate prospective citizens who are not aligned with Australian values from others. However, we would argue that potentially disallowing further attempts to apply for citizenship after a failed test does little to reaffirm our values of inclusion, harmony, diversity and a ‘fair go’ for all – especially with the termination of the Citizenship Course that served to assist disadvantaged people with limited literacy or schooling.
“The introduction of a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community is also concerning in its narrow scope. If proof of integration is required for citizenship, we propose that the definition be broadened to incorporate more types of meaningful activities, and that administrative discretions be allowed for a person’s unique circumstances.”
Anglicare currently provides the following services to refugees, humanitarian entrants and migrants, as well as people seeking asylum:
- General support services for people seeking asylum and refugees including Emergency Relief; Financial Capability; Counselling services; and other material aid through local Anglican parishes
- The Syrian and Iraqi Refugee Response project – working specifically with Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
- English as a Second Language classes in partnership with Anglican Churches.
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