Australia Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles announced Monday that the Australian government will give more than 20,000 refugees living in the country a pathway to permanent visas. The move would grant a more secure future to refugees with temporary visas who have been “in limbo” for over a decade.
Delivering on an election commitment, the Labor government will give Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders permanent visa pathways. Giles said:
TPV and SHEV holders work, pay taxes, start businesses, employ Australians and build lives in our communities – often in rural and regional areas. Without permanent visas however, they’ve been unable to get a loan to buy a house, build their businesses or pursue further education. It makes no sense – economically or socially – to keep them in limbo.
However Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil said the commitment only applied to persons who entered Australia prior to the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders.
“Let me be crystal clear–if you try to enter Australia without a valid visa you will be turned back or returned to your port of origin. There is zero-chance of settling in Australia under Operation Sovereign Borders,” O’Neil said.
It’s a move that’s welcomed by refugee groups, with The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) labelling the now outdated policy “cruel” and “inhumane.”
“Refugees subject to the temporary protection policy have been waiting anxiously for more than 10 years for the right to safety and security in Australia. We hope that the process can occur quickly so that people can finally put an end to their ongoing limbo,” the RCOA said in a statement.
Refugee groups have been campaigning for the removal of temporary visas since their 2014 inception by the Liberal-National Coalition government.
The RCOA said they “look forward to working with the Federal Government to ensure that the transition to permanent visas is as smooth as possible and that community concerns about separated families and people still at risk are addressed.”
Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said on social media that while the Greens support the move, they will continue to press for “the evacuation of refugees and asylum seekers being held offshore on [Papua New Guinea] and Nauru to Australia.”