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Why we don’t want Temporary Protection Visas

On 14th November 2013 in Australian parliament the member for Bowman (Mr Laming) asked the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (Mr Morrison) if action had been taken to introduce temporary protection visas for asylum seekers. To my dismay Minister Morrison crowed that:

…after an absence of more than five years this government has restored temporary protection visas.

Temporary protection visas (TPVs) had been abolished by the Rudd/Gillard government over five years ago. The visas give protection to those found to be refugees for up to three years, after which time their status is reviewed. Essentially TPVs created a second class of refugees who, in contrast to permanent visa holders, faced deliberate exclusion from basic welfare and integration services and:

  • Had no right to apply for family reunion with spouses and children who remained overseas – which leads to women and children risking the journey to Australia, leading to disasters such as the SIEV X which sank with most of the 353 men, women and children on board in 2001 and according to this post many of the passengers had family members living with TPVs in Australia;
  • Barred from most forms of Centrelink (social security) support, for example one Hazara refugee posted: I have been living in the community without any work rights, and I don’t know for how many years I won’t be allowed to work. I receive under $30 a day from Centrelink;
  • No right to funded English classes, interpreting or translation services;
  • No access to emergency accommodation and limited access to state housing;
  • A study, by researchers at UNSW, of more than 240 Sydney-based refugees and immigrants from the same Middle Eastern minority group, found 80 per cent of those on TPVs experienced “intense and disabling fear and terror about their future”. These symptoms were experienced by only eight per cent of those with permanent visas; and
  • Australia was the only country barbaric enough to introduce TPVs for genuine refugees as a form of penalty.

The Coalition government made an election promise to re-introduce TPVs to prevent 33,000 asylum seekers already in Australia from getting permanent protection. The senate was then offered the opportunity to block the TPVs and voted overwhelmingly with a final vote count at 36 to 26 on Monday 2nd December, thanks at least in part to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young who successfully moved the disallowance motion and described the visas as cruel:

All they did was punish the most vulnerable, the most genuine, the most deserving refugees simply for having dared seek protection for their families

Refugees on TPVs often refer to living in fear of being returned home back to the dangers they fled in the first place.

TPVs separate families, mothers and fathers from newborns…keep children in detention, they stop children from going to school and this is just one more step in their toolbox of cruelty.

Labor Senator Kim Carr said:

…any new arrival in Australian territory … are being resettled in PNG, so TPVs cannot act as a disincentive – they’ll only apply to a cohort of people already in Australia

The ever xenophobic Minister Morrison says the Government will not be deterred and will consider new measures to prevent asylum seekers in Australia from being granted permanent protection. Unfortunately on 4th March 2014 the motion to disallow the TPV legislative instrument will expire. Prime Minister Abbott said on 3rd December:

This government will never allow people who come here illegally by boat to gain permanent residency in Australia

That gives Australians 6 months to pressure the government to abandon this barbaric and ludicrous process. Professor Graeme Hugo from the University of Adelaide, on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, examined the variety of ways in which refugees contribute to Australia and concluded that:

  • while there may be short-term costs as refugees are resettled and adjust to their new surroundings, after successful integration they make permanent cultural, social and economic contributions;
  • Humanitarian entrants are often entrepreneurial as they establish themselves in a new environment – in the year 2000, five of Australia’s eight billionaires were people whose families had originally come to the country as refugees;
  • Their impact has been positive in regional and rural Australia through providing labour and stimulating economic growth and service delivery;
  • Above average rates of success in education and employment for children of refugees; and
  • Informal volunteering plays an important role in building social capital, and volunteers from ethnic communities provide the greater part of their services to benefit society as a whole rather than their own ethnic group.

2 comments on “Why we don’t want Temporary Protection Visas

  1. Pingback: How do we change Australia’s attitude towards refugees? | strivetoengage

  2. Pingback: Book review – A Country Too Far | strivetoengage

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