New $20,000 ticket to Aust for refugees

Asylum seekers with community ties in Australia will have a new $20,000 path into the country, with a private sponsorship program to be trialled from early next year.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said up to 500 people could be resettled through the pilot program, as part of the government's plan to lift the number of places in Australia's humanitarian program to 20,000.

"There has been considerable community and sector support for a private sponsorship scheme as a way of reuniting families and providing another safe pathway for refugees to start a new life in Australia," Mr Bowen said in a statement on Saturday.

The pilot program would "build on community goodwill" by allowing community groups and individuals to play a role in resettling refugees, he said.

"This scheme also provides another avenue for humanitarian entrants with existing community ties to come to Australia, while minimising the cost to taxpayers," he said.

Sponsors would be subject to a two-stage visa application charge between $20,000 and $30,000, depending on family composition, as well as airfares and medical screening costs.

They would also be required to provide humanitarian settlement support for up to a year.

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