Asylum Visa Freeze a New Low - NFP
4 December 2013 at 3:20 pm
National peak body, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), has slammed the Coalition Government’s decision to suspend the granting of new permanent protection visas for asylum seekers describing it as unprecedented and a new low in Australia’s treatment of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
On Tuesday, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison, issued a directive to cap the number of permanent protection visas at 1650.
RCOA says this means no further visas will be issued until July 2014.
RCOA President Phil Glendenning said the move would condemn anyone in the process of applying for refugee status, or asylum seekers asking for refugee protection, to a life of fear and uncertainty on bridging visas.
“This unprecedented decision will also see Australia, a Refugee Convention signatory, refusing to grant refugee protection to any asylum seeker, including those who arrived by air on a valid visa,” he said.
Glendenning said the directive – the Government’s response to a Senate vote disallowing Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) – was petty politics at its worst.
“Australians should be ashamed that a Government has inflicted more punishment and cruelty on people fleeing persecution and torture, to teach a lesson to the ALP and the Greens,” he said.
Glendenning said suspending the grant of new permanent refugee protection visas would also exacerbate a deteriorating protection environment for the world’s refugee and asylum seekers.
“All indications are that global asylum applications in 2013 are at their highest level in more than a decade. At a time when the number of people displaced by persecution and conflict is increasing, Australia is turning its back on those in urgent need,” he said.
Glendenning said the Federal Government must accept the reality that many refugees found to be in need of protection from persecution and currently living in limbo in Australian communities, will become long-term residents one way or another.
“Past experience from the Howard Government years clearly showed that the great majority of people granted TPVs were never able to return home safely and ultimately were given permanent protection in Australia,” he said.
“Of the 11,000 people granted TPVs, more than 9,500 people had been given permanent protection by the Howard Government before it left office in 2007.
“Security and permanency is a fundamental part of building a new life and ensuring recognised refugees can make the best possible contribution to Australian society.
“The Australian Government must find a form of protection for refugees who cannot safely return to their country of origin in the foreseeable future that will allow them to settle and make a long-term contribution to Australia.
“Placing vulnerable people’s lives on hold will only serve to damage their mental health and separate families for many years. This is the worst possible start for people adjusting to a new life in Australia.”