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Catholic bodies welcome TPV decision

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Archdiocesan Promoter of Justice and Peace, Fr Peter Smith, pictured at an Aboriginal Catholics and Reconciliation evening, said that he was “just delighted” that the precarity and insecurity of the temporary protection visa regime is coming to an end. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Archdiocesan Promoter of Justice and Peace, Fr Peter Smith, pictured at an Aboriginal Catholics and Reconciliation evening, said that he was “just delighted” that the precarity and insecurity of the temporary protection visa regime is coming to an end. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The archdiocesan Justice and Peace Office has joined Catholic bodies across Australia in welcoming a new pathway for refugees to find a permanent home in the country.

The Albanese Government’s 13 February decision to end temporary protection visas (TPV) and safe haven enterprise visas (SHEV) will give 19,000 refugees the right to apply for Australian citizenship, access government services such as Medicare and Centrelink services, and apply for higher education and home loans.

Justice and peace promoter Fr Peter Smith said that he was “just delighted” that the precarity and insecurity of the temporary protection visa regime is coming to an end.

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“As a result of this announcement they will be able to do all the things we take for granted; go to school, to TAFE, to university, they will be able to put down roots, work, make a contribution and, most importantly, know they are finally safe,” he said.

Fr Smith also stressed that also needing an “efficient and fair pathway to permanency” are another 12,000 men, women and children whose asylum applications were denied or have not been resolved under the “fast-track system,” which has been widely condemned as flawed.

“This will be life-changing for thousands of people who have fled wars, famines and conflicts to build a better life in Australia …”

The Federal Government on 13 February announced it would provide a permanent visa pathway for existing Temporary Protection Visa and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa holders.

In a statement the chair of Catholic Social Services Australia, Francis Sullivan, said the changes were a victory for compassion and commonsense.

“For too long, the politics around refugees has driven a wedge into our communities,” he said.

“This will be life-changing for thousands of people who have fled wars, famines and conflicts to build a better life in Australia as so many of our fellow citizens have over centuries.”

Jesuit Refugee Service Australia lauded the end of the policy which it said, “has wrought terrible harm upon refugees for over a decade.”

Migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrive at the transit and registration camp in the town of Presevo, southern Serbia, on 24 November.Photo: CNS/Djordje Savic, EPA

Shuja Jamal, JRS Australia’s Head of Policy, Advocacy and Communications, added that the refugees eligible for the new permanency pathway should also have access to expedited family reunification.

“Some Australian permanent residents from Afghanistan and Iran who, like TPV/SHEV visa holders arrived by boat, have been waiting since 2014 for their families’ visas to be approved,” he said.

“In the absence of expedited pathways, TPV/SHEV visa holders who transition to permanency could face similarly lengthy wait times.”

“Transitioning them to permanent status is laudable but it only reverses part of the harm inflicted on them, leaving them to rebuild their lives without their families.”

Most applications are expected to be processed within 12 months after lodging, with the government also committing $9.4 million over two years for visa application assistance through specialist legal service providers across Australia.

“TPV and SHEV holders work, pay taxes, start businesses, employ Australians and build lives in our communities- often in rural and regional areas.”

Refugees on TPVs and SHEVs have been kept in a state of limbo for the last decade.

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, said all people on TPVs and SHEVs have been found to be refugees, and as such were owed Australia’s protection.

“TPV and SHEV holders work, pay taxes, start businesses, employ Australians and build lives in our communities- often in rural and regional areas,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Nazari on a video call with his father and mother-in-law. He said they help him not to lose hope in his refugee journey.Image: Supplied
Mr Nazari on a video call with his father and mother-in-law. He said they help him not to lose hope in his refugee journey.
Image: Supplied

Mustafa’s hopeful journey from refugee to resident

Mr Mustafa Nazari was 17 and alone when he came to Australia by boat in 2013 from his native Afghanistan, on a journey he describes as desperate.

His bridging visa didn’t allow him to enrol in school, only English classes. A couple of years later he was allowed work and study rights.

But he found it difficult to find a school or TAFE course and complete his schooling until he secured a place at Bankstown Senior College.

Aged 20 when he finished Year 12, Mr Nazari obtained a special scholarship for university study but when his bridging visa conditions changed again, that financial support was discontinued. He was forced to abandon his liberal arts course after nearly three years, for a job in construction.

Mr Nazari is now waiting for a chance at permanent residency so he can apply for a scholarship or student loan and complete his degree, majoring in government and international relations. He hopes one day to work in public policy.

“Hopefully I can help people who are in a similar situation or even worse,” he said.

“She’s been waiting for me, and I’ve not been able to visit her because of my visa conditions.”

“I’m now in a better position because of the government’s announcement, but I know there are plenty of other people who need help and if I can help in some way that would be great.

“And I have hope now for many other aspects of my life. My wife, we were married recently online but we’ve been together for nine or 10 years.

“She’s been waiting for me, and I’ve not been able to visit her because of my visa conditions. My family as well is in New Zealand and I couldn’t go to visit them.”

He said the constant uncertainty over his future and lack of stability had affected his mental health.

“I had so much anxiety and depression, so this announcement is a source of hope for me. All the aspects of my life that are related to my future are hugely impacted by this.

“And I hope the government delivers their promises as soon as possible.”

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