As part of their pre-election strategy, Ballina Region for Refugees (BR4R) has been working to raise awareness of the destructiveness of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs), which do not allow refugees to settle permanently in Australia.
The government has found that more than 19,000 people are in need of refugee protection, but has granted them only TPVs or SHEVs. These visas prevent these people from ever becoming Australian citizens and reuniting with their families. They’re also barred from most forms of financial support, are unable to attend English classes, and have no access to emergency housing. After three or five years they are required to re-apply for protection and to engage in a full reassessment of their refugee needs. As refugees are already traumatised, this system creates a cycle of poverty and disadvantage that in turn creates more psychological trauma and distress. It is especially difficult for refugees who have been kept in detention for many years.
The current policy has a theoretical pathway to permanency which, in practice, few refugees can complete.
Permanently settling refugees and enabling them to reunite with their families is the most effective way to build a cohesive society in which they can feel productive and proud of the contribution they’re making to their new home.
The Refugee Council of Australia asserts that even if current legislation is not repealed, the Australian government can reform the visa pathway requirements to enable refugees on temporary visas to access permanent options. This can be done by amending the existing Skilled Independent (Subclass 189) visa to create a stream for TPV and SHEV holders who have demonstrated a commitment and contribution to the Australian economy and society, so they can live and work in Australia permanently.
Australia desperately needs a bigger workforce. Fruit growers are crying out for help and every second hospitality business is displaying a ‘staff wanted’ sign. There are also many refugees with high levels of education and valuable skills.
Let’s vote in a government that, instead of demonising and incarcerating refugees, allows them to settle permanently, recognising their potential contribution to the nation.
Lisa Dillon, Ballina Region for Refugees