Australia never felt like home for Mustafa. He hopes Labor’s visa promise will change that

Mustafa Nazari was 16 when his mother received a letter from the Taliban that would change the course of his life.
After his father’s death in 2006, Mustafa worked as an interpreter with his mother, who sold embroidery in refugee camps supervised by US forces in Kabul, the Afghan capital, after the fall of the Taliban.
But when the Taliban sent a death threat to himself and his mother for “working with infidels”, he fled to Australia from Indonesia by boat in 2013.

“It was so dangerous to travel on the sea by boat… but there was no other choice. To stay in Afghanistan and get killed? It was basically to survive,” he said. .


It’s been almost a decade since Mustafa came to Australia, but he says there hasn’t been a day when he felt like it was home.
“I never had a single day where I felt like I belonged in this country.”

He says it all has to do with his visa status, which he says restricted him from accessing his “basic human rights”.

Permanently feeling temporary

Mustafa is one of 19,000 people in Australia on a temporary visa.
(TPV) were first introduced in 1999 by former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard. They were abolished under the Rudd Labor government in 2008, but later reintroduced under the Abbott Liberal government in 2013.
They are part of Operation Sovereign Borders, a plan by then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to prevent asylum seekers from arriving ‘illegally’ in Australia by boat under the Immigration Act. migrations.
TPVs are issued to asylum seekers who arrive in Australia without a visa and subsequently qualify for protection. They can last up to three years, and holders of these visas are allowed to work and have access to Medicare.
The Abbott government has also introduced a second type of temporary visa, called the Shelter Enterprise Visa (SHEV), allowing asylum seekers and refugees to stay for five years if they intend to work or study. in regional Australia.

People with these visas live lives in limbo while fearing being forced to return to their countries after their visas expire, according to Sangeetha Pillai, senior research associate at the UNSW Kaldor Center for International Refugee Law.

A metal block in the shape of a boat bearing the words

In 2018, The New York Times published an interview with Prime Minister Scott Morrison with an image of a trophy in his office from a boat that read “I stopped these.” Source: AAP / Lucas Coch

Dr Pillai described it as a “radical policy change” strategically executed by the Coalition to send a clear message to asylum seekers.

“The government is committed to maintaining the very tough policy that no one who comes to Australia – through what the government considers to be improper channels – could permanently resettle here, even if they are genuine refugees” , said Dr. Pillai.

“The idea that there is a right way to claim asylum and a wrong way to claim asylum is a creature of Australian law and policy.”


‘Treated like a second-class citizen’

The TPV and SHEV program meant that people like Mustafa who had been granted refugee status would never receive permanent protection because they had come to Australia by boat.
Both major parties support a policy prohibiting .
TPV and SHEV holders can work and study in Australia, but their opportunities are limited – they cannot bring family members to Australia and they cannot leave the country without written permission from the government.
Since Mustafa fled Afghanistan, his family fled to New Zealand where they are now citizens. He has not seen them for almost ten years; his travel requests were denied by the former government.
But most upsetting is that Mustafa, TPV and SHEV holders cannot access government support to pay university fees.
“I felt so deprived [sic], treated as a second class citizen, discriminated against, unable to access my basic rights to education. The government did this to me on purpose,” he said.
The Coalition has repeatedly said the policy has been very successful, preventing smugglers from entering the country and stopping thousands of deaths at sea.

The Liberal Party’s campaign website said the use of VTPs “prevents smugglers from having a product to sell”.

Four men stand side by side.  Mustafa, second from the right, makes a peace sign with his fingers.

Mustafa (second from right) says he feels like a second-class citizen after being denied permanent residency in Australia because he arrived by boat in 2013. Source: Provided / Mustafa Nazari

Despite the roadblocks, Mustafa secured a scholarship to the University of Sydney while on a bridging visa.

But three years into his course in 2020, he got his SHEV — a visa not recognized by scholarship criteria.
He had to give up his dream of becoming a lawyer, unable to afford the $60,000 annual registration fee he was charged after the scholarship was revoked.
TPV and SHEV holders must also reapply for their visas after they expire.

“I tried my best to connect with people, but deep down it affects me psychologically. I’m not sure I can stay there to make friendships,” Mustafa said.

Mustafa is in videoconference with his partner, his mother and his two sisters.

Mustafa has not seen his partner Somaya (top right) or his mother and sisters (bottom) since 2013. Source: Provided / Mustafa Nazari

“I feel so alienated from society.”

Dr Pillai said refugees also face a huge “mental burden”, having to “prove again” why they fled persecution from their home countries in their subsequent claims.
“Having to re-open the traumas that you have to deal with to establish that you are like a refugee has an incredibly negative impact on people’s mental health,” she said.

“Levels of depression and suicidal ideation among those on temporary protection visas are significantly higher than among other refugees on permanent visas.”

The Labor Promise

One of the Labor and providing TPV and SHEV holders with pathways to permanent visas.
During the election campaign, Labor Home Affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said temporary visa holders work and contribute to Australian society and deserve to be treated fairly.
Ms Andrews said TPVs and SHEVs were and had to stay to ensure that more boats with asylum seekers did not reach Australia.
“They’re there to be a very, very strong deterrent,” she said during the election campaign last month.
“We have to say very clearly that you will never settle here in Australia.”
Then Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during the campaign that Labor’s promise to abolish TPVs and SHEVs meant they had ‘learned nothing about border protection’.
Beyond the promise to abolish TPVs and NSHEVs, Labor’s immigration policy remains largely identical to that of the Coalition, supporting third-country resettlement of asylum seekers and boat pushbacks” when it is safe to do so”.
Labor says the TPVs are redundant because no asylum seeker who arrived by boat since 2013 has received one and they will not be issued to those who arrive by boat in the future.
The new government has committed $39 million in fiscal year 2022-23 to abolish visas and replace them with a new permanent visa, and $191 million over the next four years.
New Finance Minister Katy Gallagher released cost details last week and said the funding would cover access to Medicare, income support, English lessons and trauma and torture counseling .
She said it would also remove the need for people to constantly reapply for their visas.
“It would remove the need to re-apply and go through that process every three to five years, which is currently the case, and that’s for people who have met the security and character requirements under the current visa agreements,” she said.

Dr Pillai said “both sides have been in tune” with strong border policies, but she hopes the abolition of temporary protection visas is a small step forward.


“It’s a start to bring some of the things that really don’t conform to international law more into line with the standards that countries around the world have adhered to in international law.”
also acts as a positive indication that new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will keep his promise, she said.
“It’s kind of an encouraging sign that things could move quite quickly, but it will take time.”
Mustafa and thousands of others are anxiously waiting to see if Mr. Albanese will keep the promise he made during the election campaign.
“I have a lot of hope, everyone can feel it… I really hope that [Labor] deliver on their promise and uphold their commitment,” Mustafa said.

“I hope we get permanent residency, so we can finally call this country home and do our best to contribute back.”

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