‘Too much’: Refugees rally for permanent visas in Australia

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The government has promised to end temporary visas that have left thousands struggling to survive, but has given no time frame.

Canberra, Australia – Refugees in Australia are mounting pressure on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s three-month-old government to fulfill a promise to grant them permanent security visas that will allow them to work and study and lead more normal lives.

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More than 1,000 refugees, advocates and activists reached Parliament House on Tuesday to press for their case.

“We are here because we want action, we want change. We want to create identity within this community,” said Mustafa Faraji, a speaker at the rally in Canberra.


Currently, there are 31,000 refugees living in Australia on various temporary visas that limit their lives – whether for work, study or family ties.

For the May election, Albany’s Labor Party promised to eliminate some temporary visas and replace them with permanent security.

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During the protest, Andrew Giles, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Overseas Services and Multicultural Affairs, posted a statement Reiterating the promise on social media, he said it would be carried out “as soon as possible”.

There are three types of temporary visas for refugees in Australia: temporary security visa (TPV), Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) and bridging visa. The government has promised to eliminate TPV and SHEV.

These temporary visas are granted to refugees who arrive without a valid security visa, usually by boat. When the holder’s temporary visa expires, their security claim is reevaluated and their visa is likely to be extended.

A SHEV holder can apply for a permanent visa, “but in the entire history of SHEV only two have met strict language [requirements] And were eligible,” Ian Rintoul, a political activist and spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, told Al Jazeera.

Someone with TPV cannot apply for a permanent visa at all.

Visas also put constraints on people’s ability to work and study.

While TPV and SHEV allow the holder to do both – and to pay taxes – visa holders often find that high-paying jobs are out of reach.

Faraji, who is studying for a degree in law and nursing, said people at TPV or SHEV are usually limited to studying as international students, which means they have to pay exorbitant fees.

To pay for his studies, and “to survive,” he must find any job, from driving an Uber to working as a security guard.

Many of those in Australia on temporary visas now see themselves as Australians [Zoe Osborne/Al Jazeera]

The reality is that many employers do not accept temporary visas, he said.

“They ask for either student visas, they either ask for permanent security or civilian visas, or work skilled visas,” Farazi said. “So, therefore, your job opportunities… it’s restricted.”

A refugee in the protests, who asked to remain anonymous for the safety of his family, has two master’s degrees from his home country, one in political science and the other in philosophy. His wife also has a postgraduate qualification but has been forced to work in basic, low-paying jobs because that was all she could get.

He narrated years of work from the fields to the kitchen.

“I remember four or five months I worked for someone but they didn’t pay [me]and I got the lowest rate of 7 or 8 Australian dollars ($5 – $5.50) an hour in that hard work,” he said. “We worked in the fields, collecting and packing, and a lot in muddy terrain. was difficult[s] With that payment, no more insurance, nothing if anything happens to us. ,

People on temporary visas have limited access to state benefits, known as CenterLink, and state-funded medical care (Medicare), if they have access at all.

“People on TPV and SHEV have access to Medicare and CenterLink … [but] They are not eligible for the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme,” Rintoul said. “People who complete the visa … cannot access Centrelink. If they have the right to work (some bridging visas don’t allow employment) they can usually access Medicare, but not always.”

Another protester, a refugee who lives with schizophrenia, said he was not able to access the drug because his Medicare cover is only for emergencies so it does not cover the medicine he needs.

“I have a permanent health problem that isn’t something I can do other than take my medicine,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like I’m being treated like an animal.”

pain of separation

Then comes the pain of being separated from the close family they cannot bring to Australia.

Hazara refugee Alex from Afghanistan drove 14 hours from Brisbane to protest.

A man in a white T-shirt and blue trousers stands with protesters and holds a sign: #Permanent Visa for All Refugees.  no discrimination
Temporary visas are usually issued to people who arrive by boat. When the temporary visa expires, their security claim is reevaluated and the visa can potentially be extended [Zoe Osborne/Al Jazeera]

Using a surname to protect his family, he told Al Jazeera that the temporary visa policy had “destroyed” his life.

“I was working hard to save money to support [my family] in good condition,” he said, “but because [of] Isolation for 10 years, they slowly, gradually, step by step, they lose their sense of me. ,

Alex and his family fled Afghanistan to a neighboring country some 25 years ago when the Taliban gave them three options: convert to Sunni Islam, move out of the country, or let the Taliban “choose for you.”

“I [tried] There are many ways to find a legal way to come to Australia with my family,” he said. “But unfortunately, all the doors and options [were] On and off for me. ,

He traveled to Australia by boat in 2012 with the support of his wife.

But over the years of separation – thanks to temporary visas – their relationship has deteriorated.

“People are in [Parliament] House… they just look like humans,” he said of the Australian government. “They Look Like Humans”[s] But their actions, the work they are doing, we can see they are terrible.”

Activists say the eradication of TPV and SHEV would be a welcome first step, but Australia needs to do more to make its immigration system more human.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg…the iceberg of injustice and injustice that applies to thousands of people in the community,” said Rintoul, “many of them are living, working and paying huge amounts of taxes and GST.” are paying but exiting an existence on the edge of legal society. ,

Rintoul points to regulations such as Directive 80, which says that applications for family reunification by people arriving in Australia by boat will be considered with the lowest priority.

A father and his two boys, one looking sadly at the camera and the younger one looking at the ground.  Take part in the protest against Permanent Security Visa in Canberra.  Other protesters with banners are standing behind him.
Refugees, including this father and his two sons, staged a silent protest outside Parliament House as the government reiterated its commitment to abolish some temporary visas. [Zoe Osborne Al Jazeera]

Then there are refugees who do not have visas because their visas have expired, he said. These people are barred from work or study, or from access to government-paid and state-funded medical care.

“I would say that there are several thousand Tamils, Iranians and Afghans living in the community on expired visas…they have nothing, no income…they are illegal,” he said. “They trust refugee organizations and mostly they trust their communities.”

Sam, as his friends know him, is one of them.

He has lived the best part of his life in limbo. “I was 25″ [when I came]I’m 38 now,” he said, taking off his hat to show off his gray hair.

“I have not seen my family for 12 years. I lost two of my family members, I didn’t see them,” he said.

Like many other refugees, her case is complicated. He said he was asked to return to his country, but he is stateless, so he cannot “go home”.

In fact, after more than 10 years in Australia, Sam, like so many refugees in the country, feels Australia is his home.

It was a big part of the protest, organizer Arad Nick explained – “tell the people we are … Australian”.

“We want to share [a] Beer with all my comrades in this wonderful, beautiful country,” he said, emphasizing that the refugees bring with them skills, knowledge and culture. “Refugees are not the problem, refugees are the solution.”

But unless the Australian government begins to change its policies towards refugees, it is likely that many will not only be separated from their old home but also remain foreigners in their new lands.

Credit: www.aljazeera.com /

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