The social impacts of family separation on refugee settlement and inclusion in Australia

Family reunion is an important component of successful migrant settlement. Yet in Australia, some humanitarian migrants are at a disadvantage when applying for family reunification visas. Emerging evidence reveals that family separation can have negative effects on an individual’s well-being and compromise the settlement process for new migrants.

The aim of this report is to examine the relationship between family reunion and successful settlement for refugees. Conducted by the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre and supported by the Oxfam-Monash Partnership, this report provides foundational evidence to inform policy on family reunion in Australia, with a specific focus on the impact of family separation and resettlement on social inclusion outcomes for refugees.

This report comprises three data analysis methods: a systematic review of available scholarly and grey literature; an analysis of the ‘Building a New Life in Australia’ (BNLA) survey of humanitarian migrants; and two in-depth, case studies with refugees in Australia.

A number of barriers to refugee migrant settlement and the impacts of family separation on individuals and families were identified in this report. Costs and lengthy processing timeframes associated with family reunification visas hindered refugee settlement opportunities and potential. Prolonged family separation was associated with longer term difficulties achieving settlement milestones. Mental health concerns were related to family separation and employment and educational variables.