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Family separation in situations of displacement and flight are particularly common, decreasing the possibility of all family members being resettled together in a country such as Australia. Family reunion and the devastating psychological, economic and social impacts of family separation are some of the most pressing issues for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. In our consultations with hundreds of people from a refugee background, community members and service providers across Australia, the theme most commonly discussed has been how family separation undermines successful settlement outcomes.

Participants in our annual consultations have continued to highlight a range of challenges affecting people in Australia who are seeking to sponsor family members to join them in Australia. While some of these challenges are pre-existing and have been raised over many years (such as prolonged delays in processing of applications, the restrictive definition of family and the limited availability of affordable migration advice), others have resulted from more recent policy changes (such as the introduction of new restrictions affecting people who arrived in Australia by boat).

This paper summarises both the continuing and new concerns expressed to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) during our annual national consultations and other discussions with service providers and refugee community members. It proposes alternatives for positive reforms that will benefit those seeking protection in Australia and the humanitarian arrivals and ultimately enhance the outcomes for our entire community

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