Some asylum seekers could eventually be given permanent residency in a deal reached between Clive Palmer and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to allow the reintroduction of temporary protection visas and remove all asylum seekers from Christmas Island.
As part of the deal, apart from of the reintroduction of a three-year temporary protection visa, the federal government will also introduce a new five-year visa – called the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa – that will allow asylum seekers to eventually apply for other onshore visas.
The visa will allow asylum seekers to be granted onshore visas, such as family and skilled visas as well as temporary skilled and student visas.
This means that asylum seekers could eventually be given permanent residency if they fulfil the requirements of the other onshore visas
In a press conference in Brisbane, Mr Palmer announced 1500 people will be moved from Christmas Island to mainland Australia as part of the deal with the government.
“It’s also a good thing that it doesn’t have people locked in a ghetto situation with no hope for themselves or their family,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra that the two visa options – the TPV and the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa – would only be offered to
people who are already in Australia and found to be refugees. Mr Morrison said it would not apply to anyone on Nauru, Manus or who arrived in Australia now.
Under the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa, asylum seekers who are found to be refugees would have to live and work in a regional area.
Under this visa, they could then apply for a range of other visas including a skilled migration visa, which could eventually lead to permanent residency in Australia.
“It means that if they do go to those places and they do work for 3.5 years out of the five, then they may make an onshore application for what could be a student visa, it could be a 457 visa but they would have to meet the eligibility requirements of those visas,” Mr Morrison said.
When asked whether there will be a cap placed on the number of of the five-year visas, Mr Morrison said the government hadn’t decided whether that would be necessary.
“We haven’t considered whether a cap might be necessary,” he said. “And the flow of people will depend upon the assessment process and how many people are found to be refugees or not.”
Mr Morrison also touched on the Cambodia resettlement agreement, which he will sign in Phnom Penh on Friday, saying the deal would only be for refugees who voluntarily choose to permanently resettle in the impoverished country.
“There will be no surprise. The arrangement is strictly voluntary. Anyone who chooses to go to Cambodia will have chosen themselves to go to Cambodia,” he said.
“Support will be tailored to the needs of those as part of the package of measures that will go to their resettlement which is designed to make them self-reliant as quickly as possible.
“This will be an ongoing developing relationship. This is a country, Australia, who has the best record on resettlement of any country proudly in the world, working together with another refugee signatory country in our region to help them develop the capability to resettle refugees.”
Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson Young said Mr Palmer had been “played”, calling the Safe Haven Enterprise visa a “furphy”.
“Most people won’t get it,” she said. “Most people won’t be able to be eligible for any type of transfer to permanency, and so they will be back in permanent limbo.”
Seantor Hanson-Young said she believed most asylum seekers would not be eligible for the new visa.
“I think Clive Palmer has well and truly been played. I think he took on something that was too complex and too big for him to handle.”
The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill 2014:
- introduces temporary protection visas for unauthorised arrivals already in detention
- creates a new visa class of safe haven enterprise visa
- deems that if an asylum seeker has a current permanent protection visa application in train that it be instead considered an application for a TPV
- creates a fast-track assessment process for those who arrived on or after August 13, 2012, by removing access to the Refugee Review Tribunal and referring reviews instead to a new Immigration Assessment Authority
- removes most references to the UN Refugees Convention and replaces it with Australia’s interpretation of its obligations under the convention
- classifies children born to asylum seekers in Australia or a regional processing centre as “unauthorised maritime arrivals” to be blocked from applying for permanent visas, and resettled offshore
- allows the Government to remove people who fail to gain refugee status, without regard to assessments of Australia’s non-refoulement obligations (refoulement being the international legal principle forbidding the return of a refugee anywhere their life or freedom could be threatened)
- deems that a person has a well-founded fear if they face a “real chance” of persecution in all areas of a receiving country, and says decision-makers should consider whether the person can access an area where they do not face a real threat of persecution
- puts a cap on the number of protection visas that can be issued in a year (which circumvents a High Court ruling earlier this year invalidating that approach)
- give the Immigration Minister more powers to direct boat turnbacks
- provide that the rules of natural justice do not apply to a range of powers, including the Immigration Minister’s new powers
- allows a boat or people to be taken to a place outside Australia, whether or not Australia has an agreement or arrangements with the country
- ensures the Government’s policies cannot be invalidated by the courts for not complying with international obligations