February 08, 2014
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has quietly reintroduced a ”backdoor” alternative visa arrangement to the controversial temporary protection visa, meaning asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat or plane without valid visas will never get permanent residency.
Under the ”Temporary Humanitarian Concern” visa, refugees will not be permitted to apply for family reunions, nor will they be able to settle in Australia.
The move has been widely criticised by human rights groups who describe the visa – which has very similar restrictions as the temporary protection visa that was voted down in the Senate in December – as cruel and counter-productive.
“For people already traumatised by their refugee journey, living on a temporary humanitarian visa brings uncertainty, unfairness and fear for the safety of family members in dangerous and desperate circumstances,” said Paul Power, chief executive officer of the Refugee Council of Australia.
”It’s using existing visa sub classes in a way in which they were never intended.”But a fundamental concern lies with the temporary protection itself for people found by Australia to be in need of protection.”
The visa has not been issued in Australia since 2009. It was initially developed in 1999 to allow temporary stay for people fleeing Timor and Kosovo.
It will also retrospectively apply to the 20,000 asylum seekers who have arrived by boat and are waiting on bridging visas.
Mr Morrison has not responded to questions from Fairfax Media on the issue.
Amjad Hussain, a Pakistani journalist who fled Quetta in 2012 and arrived in Australia by boat in the same year, was told on Thursday that he would not be granted permanent protection, instead he would be given a temporary visa.
”I was shocked that I was not granted a protection visa,” he said. ”This is a huge blow. It was a shock to me but also to my wife and my kids.”
Greens Senator and immigration spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said the move was a ”sinister subverting of the legal and parliamentary process from a shifty government”.
“This is the government trying to reintroduce temporary protection visas through the back door,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
Giving temporary visas to refugees has been widely criticised by human rights groups for more than a decade.
Under the Howard government, 11,000 people were granted TPVs. Of those, 9500 were later granted permanent protection.
”The Howard government had to face the reality that it is rare for conditions in refugees’ countries of origin to improve quickly – and the Abbott government will face the same reality,” Mr Power said