Refugee Action Collective (Vic)

Free the refugees! Let them land, let them stay!

Finally, good news for 19,000 refugees – now give permanent visas for all

13 February 2023

The announcement that the more than 19,000 refugees on temporary and safe haven visas (TPVs and SHEVs) will finally be able to get permanent residency is welcome but long overdue.

After 10 years or more in limbo, refugees will now be able to plan their lives, get permanent jobs, attend university, travel overseas and sponsor family members to join them.

But the decision could and should have been much quicker – Labor gave the Biloela family permanent protection in a matter of weeks.

Now, nine months after winning the election, Labor is asking refugees to apply for a Resolution of Status (RoS) visa, a process that will see some refugees waiting for an outcome until this time next year.

But this is far from the end of the campaign for refugee rights.

Labor has not abolished TPVs and SHEVs – furthermore, it has just renewed the status of Nauru as an offshore processing island and is paying a company more than $400 million to maintain an empty detention centre for possible use.

While Immigration Minister Andrew Giles announced the good news, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil played hard cop to his soft cop, threatening anyone who attempts to arrive by boat.

Labor continues to support Operation Sovereign Borders, which includes boat turnbacks and offshore detention, with no path to residency.

A the same time, Labor is offering nothing to those rejected as refugees under the flawed fast track process, and it has nothing to say to refugees and asylum-seekers who were deported to Nauru or Papua New Guinea and who are still stuck there.

Labor is also silent on the fate of refuges who were sent offshore and who have since been brought to Australia for medical treatment. Medevac refugees like Farhad Bandesh and Mostafa Azimitabar, who have built new lives in Australia, still have no path to permanent protection.

And we must not forget the 14,000 refugees trapped in Indonesia, who were barred from Australia by Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison.

RAC welcomes the 19,000 refugees who are celebrating today’s announcement as sisters and brothers in our communities.

But we will continue to campaign for an end to Operation Sovereign Borders, for the lifting of the ban on refugees in Indonesia, and for permanent visas for everyone who is caught up in the hell of Australia’s refugee policy.

We call on all refugee supporters to join the Palm Sunday rally at 1pm at the State Library on 2 April, to send a clear message – permanent visas for all. None of us are free until we are all free.

RAC calls for migration system that respects refugees

RAC Vic has made a submission to the Department of Home Affairs review of Australia’s migration system.

RAC’s recommendations include:

  • all refugees and asylum-seekers remaining in PNG or Nauru be brought here ASAP
  • all amendments to the Migration Act that inserted or further “strengthened” sections 501 and 116 (and closely related provisions) be repealed
  • the Migration Act’s Refugee Convention-based definition of “refugee” be extended to cover people forced to leave their country due to the effects of climate change
  • all refugees and asylum-seekers who arrive in Australia receive the humanitarian program’s level of support and benefits
  • permanent visas be granted ASAP to the following non-citizens: refugees and asylum-seekers denied justice by the unfair “Fast Track” system; all those who were or are detained in Australia, Nauru or PNG; and those on TPVs, SHEVs, and Bridging Visas.

Read the RAC submission in full.

We say: stop this detention centre ‘torture’

RAC has called out the systemic “torture” of people held in Australian immigration detention facilities (IDFs) in a submission to a United Nations body.

We have called for an end to mandatory detention, for refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru and in Papua New Guinea to be brought here, as well as a raft of legal changes and a Senate inquiry. RAC continues to call for all refugees to be given permanent protection.

The submission was made to the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, outlining how the Australian government has been, and still is, breaching the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and its optional protocol (OPCAT).

OPCAT inspectors visited Australian IDFs and prisons in October but left the country in protest after being denied entry by NSW and Queensland.

The CAT definition of “torture” includes “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” of detainees. Our submission points to examples such as:

  • 15 reported sexual assaults on children between 2012 and 2015 at the Nauru IDF
  • the failure to stock a tropical infections antibiotic at the IDF on PNG’s Manus Island (closed in 2017) and the failure to ensure quick emergency medical airlifts to Australia, resulting in detainee Hamid Khazaei’s arrival, brain dead, at a Brisbane hospital in 2014
  • 8000 forced transfers of onshore detainees by air (usually in handcuffs) from one IDF to another during 2017–19, an average for detainees of one such transfer every two months
  • repeated refusals – by the Home Affairs department’s Australian Border Force unit (ABF) – of doctor-requested transfers of offshore detainees to Australia
  • in 2019, even after the Migration Act’s “Medevac” amendments ordered such transfers, Home Affairs/ABF locked up transferees in IDFs, and continued to prevent most of them from receiving doctor-recommended specialist health care.

RAC has sent a copy of its submission to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, whose inspectors monitor CAT compliance between UN inspector visits.

To help end government breaches of human rights obligations, RAC’s recommendations include:

  • enacting a Human Rights Charter
  • defining “human rights” in the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 and the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 to include all applicable human rights instruments, including the Refugee Convention
  • inserting – in the Object provision of the Migration Act and related Acts – wording such as “to give effect to Australia’s international obligations”, then, in Schedules to each Act, reproducing each relevant international instrument.

Read the RAC submission in full.

Read RAC’s letter regarding the submission sent to Ministers.