Morrison: Different Strokes For Same Boats
By Nick OlleNovember 8, 2013
Now you can go from refugee to TPV – and suddenly get only temporary protection – depending on the paperwork flow in Australia’s bureaucracy.
The Coalition’s plan to issue temporary protection visas (TPVs) retrospectively means some people already found to be genuine refugees will not be entitled to permanent settlement or family reunion in Australia.
This means that the fate of some refugees who arrived in Australia at the same time – even on the same boat – will have been dictated by the speed with which the government processed their visa.
TPVs, which were introduced by former prime minister John Howard in 1999 and dumped during the Rudd government, allow temporary work rights. They offer no path to citizenship nor, in breach of the UN refugee convention, any right to family reunion.
Adelaide migration agent Libby Hogarth says that she works with 35 people who have been found to be refugees, some more than two years ago, but whose permanent refugee visas have yet to be issued.
“That means that some of our clients who came in 2010 and 2011, and who have been found to be refugees but are still waiting for visas, will now only get a TPV,” she says.
“In the meantime, others who arrived with them and who were processed quickly are nearly up to getting Australian citizenship. Is this a fair go for all?”
In most cases, delays in processing visas for people already recognised as genuine refugees hinge on security clearances or character issues determined by other government agencies such as ASIO. The Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul says there are “well over 100” refugees in this situation around Australia.
In response to questions from The Global Mail at the November 8 Operation Sovereign Borders briefing in Sydney, the Minister for Immigration and Border Control Scott Morrison said it would be “hypocritical” of the Coalition government not to reintroduce temporary-protection visas for asylum seekers with retrospective effect.
“We have been crystal clear about that policy since it was first introduced by the Howard government. People who come to Australia illegally by boat will not get a permanent visa under a Coalition government, whether they turned up before or they turned up after,” the minister said.
“The Coalition does not believe that people who turned up the wrong way should get permanent residency in Australia. It would be quite hypocritical of us if we were to then hand out permanent visas to people who arrived illegally by boat.”
Migration agent Hogarth dismisses this argument, saying: “How can you say to people that arrived on the same boat that some can have permanent visas and that others can’t?”
“The retrospective intent of this legislation will be devastating for our clients who have been waiting already two or three years for visas. Some of these guys are hardly functioning now and yet we are expected to advise them that they will not get [a permanent visa].”
Professor Louise Newman from Monash University’s School of Psychology and Psychiatry, says the implementation of retrospective TPVs would be “a recipe for creating mental health problems”.
“We saw after the last time [under the Howard government] that many people couldn’t move on with their lives because this was hanging over their heads.
“Predictably, we’ll see people become agitated and distressed again as they realise the situation. Many of these people come from extremely vulnerable backgrounds, and this will further stress them.
“I really think there is a lack of longitudinal thinking about what is likely to happen with these people. It is important that we collect data on that.”
The government reviews a TPV holder’s status every three years; refugees can be deported if conditions in their home country are deemed to have changed such that they are no longer considered to be in danger there.
Hogarth is emphatic that this, and the fact that the visa doesn’t grant the right to family reunion, is punitive.
“No one seems to understand [that by re-instituting TPVs] the government is saying, ‘Forget about your wives and kids, leave them to be bombed in Quetta or go back and join them, but do not ever think of bringing them here as we are not going to let you,’” she says.
“Some have already lost family members in Pakistan since they arrived in Australia and they live in fear every day that their wives or children will be killed.
“For a country that signed the convention, it beggars belief.”