Courtesy of The Australian, 20 September 2013
ASYLUM-SEEKERS and refugee advocates are upset that the Abbott government has ordered the Immigration Department to stop granting permanent protection ahead of the reintroduction of temporary protection visas. In its plan to stop boatloads more of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia, the government will use the TPVs to force genuine refugees to reapply for protection every few years in case circumstances in their home countries improve to the point where they can safely return. The move has sparked outrage among refugee advocates, who described the reintroduction of TPVs as “vindictive”.
Sri Lankan father of three Daluwattage Antony Perera, 56, has been on a bridging visa while awaiting a decision on his claim to asylum since his release from Christmas Island last year. Yesterday he was disappointed that, as someone who had arrived by boat, he could not get a permanent visa. Mr Perera said he felt terrible that his wife and children, who are still living near Colombo, would not be able to join him if he was granted a TPV — which, unlike the permanent visas introduced by Labor, do not allow for family reunification under a single application. He faced the prospect of being killed for being a member of an “enemy” opposition Sinhalese party if he returned to the subcontinent, he said. “I can’t visit my wife and children in Sri Lanka,” Mr Perera said from the western Sydney apartment he shares with five other Sri Lankans. “I have a lot of problems, but I can’t do anything about it . . . it’s a terrible life.” Lawyer David Manne, who successfully had Labor’s Malaysian Solution overturned in the High Court, said he would not decide whether to challenge the Abbott government’s new laws until the details of the new regime had been revealed. But he said Australia needed to fulfil its legal obligations. “Asylum-seekers have been left in a twilight zone of uncertainty,” he said. “The thing that is giving the most pain and uncertainty is leaving people in limbo with an uncertain fate.” Adelaide-based migration agent Libby Hogarth said there was now widespread confusion over how the changeover would work. Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the use of TPVs would not stop asylum-seekers using boats to get to Australia. “There will be far more children and wives and mothers who will have no alternative but to get on a boat,” he said. –