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.