With major disruptions to international travel, our migration intake is lower than ever – we need to make sure our local workforce is maximised and our local economies are boosted.
Now is the time for the Australian government to provide permanent visas to refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom who have lived in our community for many years and continue to demonstrate their commitment to the Australian way of life. They are highly motivated and entrepreneurial people – they pay their taxes, some have started new businesses and many are well educated.
Refugees and asylum seekers do not leave their homelands willingly. They are forced to leave behind their loved ones and livelihoods because it is unsafe for them to stay – like we are now seeing people again fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. Australia is now their only home, but many only have temporary visas despite living here for up to 10 years.
Permanent visas are necessary for people to have a sense of stability and to be able to financially invest in their community. The time for permanency is now.
The Current Situation
What is a TPV and a SHEV Visa?
The Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) and the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) are the two types of temporary protection visas available to those claiming asylum who arrived to Australia by boat. “Temporary protection” is part of the Australian Government’s current policy that people who came by boat and claimed asylum should not be given permanent protection. There are currently almost 20,000 people living in the Australian community on these visas with more than 4000 others under review or still awaiting processing of their asylum claim.
The TPV provides protection for three years, and the SHEV for five years before needing to re-apply for a further temporary visa. In order to apply for a SHEV the person must not only be in need of protection, meet health and character requirements, but must also commit to working or studying in a regional area. The SHEV was intended to provide a pathway to a permanent visa if certain criteria were met, but this has proven impossible for most applicants.
The reality is that almost all the refugees in this group are currently stuck in an endless loop of temporary visas.
Refugees who are living on temporary visas are experiencing ongoing difficulties that cause distress and prevent them from starting a life together with their families. Most refugees on temporary visas have lived in the Australian community for eight years or more, supporting themselves, paying taxes and sending remittances back to their families overseas. Many have missed seeing their children grow up and many key events like family funerals and weddings. Living in a constant state of uncertainty exacerbates mental stress and there are significant restrictions on the employment, study or business options for refugees.
Provide access to permanent residency
Most SHEV holders struggle to meet the SHEV pathway to permanency, with the COVID-19 pandemic making this even more difficult. For those few that do fulfil the pathway, most will not meet the onerous criteria of the few permanent visas available to them under the current laws.
For those few who can meet the SHEV pathway, most of the permanent visas available to them are skilled visas which require levels of skill and English language that are beyond their reach. Many skilled visas also have an age limit attached to them – usually under 45. A significant number of SHEV holders may be over 45 by the time they qualify to apply, even though they arrived and commenced work in Australia many years before that.
Both the TPV and SHEV temporary visas have no allowance for sponsoring family members. This means that people found to be refugees but only given temporary visas cannot bring their spouses or children to live with them. Being refugees, it is not safe for them to return to the country from which they fled and most hold grave fears for the wellbeing of their loved ones who remain in danger.
Providing a clear and attainable pathway to a permanent visa and family reunion would greatly alleviate the mental distress experienced by refugees in our community and would help maximise the contributions they will be able to make to Australia.
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