12,000 Refugees In Limbo: A Decade-Long Wait For Residency

Asylum seekers have today launched a week-long protest in Melbourne’s south-east, demanding permanent residency for the 12,000 people excluded under the Albanese government’s new migration plan.

The sit-down strike is taking place outside the Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neill’s electorate office in Oakleigh, with protestors saying it is a:

“Really tough situation after a decade-long wait.”

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Under the Abbot Government’s 2014 ‘Fast Track’ system, 31,000 refugees and asylum seekers entered Australia.

19,000 received short-term visas, either in the form of a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV). TPV holders had to renew their visas every three years, whilst SHEV folders had to renew them every five years.

In February this year, the Albanese Government announced that these two visa holders would be eligible to apply for permanent residency by the end of 2023.  

At the time, the Minister for Immigration, Andrew Giles MP, said: “There are thousands of TPV and SHEV holders in the community that have endured ten years of uncertainty due to the policies of the previous Liberal government.”

“TPV and SHEV holders work, pay taxes, start businesses, employ Australians and build lives in our communities … 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, the new pathway excludes 12,000 refugees, some of whom received bridging visas or still have their cases under review.

These are people who live in the community, some without working rights or easy access to Medicare, education and welfare, while others haven’t seen their children, parents and spouses in more than ten years.

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Maryam Sadeghi is one of them. She first came to Australia 11 years ago and has been married to an Australian citizen for nine years.

However, she is not eligible to apply for a partner visa because she is currently holding a refugee visa.

“We need to live like a normal Australian. We work and pay our taxes like other Australians, but we don’t have any human rights,” Ms Sadeghu said.

“I left my own country because we had no human rights in Iran, but the way this government treats us is not any better than what they did,” she said.

The 35-year-old has experienced numerous difficulties with her current visa status, and she is struggling to tell her five-year-old daughter the real reason why she can’t visit her grandparents in her home country.

“What does a five-year-old know about a visa? How can I explain to her that she was born here in Australia but has no valid visa?” she added.

“We can’t borrow money from the bank because of our visa situation, our kids can’t go to uni if they want to, and they have to pay expensive tuition as international students, which is not affordable.

Many people like Ms Sadeghi are stuck in limbo. They are forced to make individual representations to the Minister, who is the only one who can grant them the opportunity to apply for permanent residency. 

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