Refugees and activists mobilize for permanent visas | SBS News


June 16, 2013. The date is engraved in the head of Hussain Hussain.
Because that was the day he arrived in Australia.
And the day he saw his wife and children for the last time.

A Rohingya Muslim, Mr Hussain fled the atrocities inflicted on his ethnic group in Myanmar in 2013 with his wife, two daughters and son.

A Rohingya Muslim who fled Myanmar in 2013, Hussain Hussain has not seen his family for nine years due to travel restrictions on his Australian visa. Credit: Akash Arora

But following a series of unpredictable events, he ended up in Australia, while the rest of his family ended up in Thailand as refugees.

“At that time, my eldest daughter was 14, my son was 13, and my youngest daughter was two,” Hussain told SBS News.

“Now they are teenagers and in their twenties and I haven’t seen them for so long,” said Mr. Hussain, who has a Safe Haven Enterprise (SHEV) visa and is not authorized to travel abroad. .

A widespread problem for refugees

Around 19,000 refugees in Australia are either on SHEV or on temporary protection visas.
Although the visa categories allow them to live and work in Australia, they do not have the same rights as many other visa holders or Australian citizens when it comes to studying, working or traveling to Australia. ‘foreign.
SHEVs are for five years and TPVs are for three years and holders can apply for renewal.

Hundreds of refugees like Mr Hussain gathered outside Sydney Town Hall on Sunday afternoon to take part in the No-One Left Behind rally organized by grassroots campaign group Refugee Action Coalition.

A refugee giving a speech at a refugee rally in Sydney

Sri Lankan Tamil refugee Vinothini Selvarasa delivers a speech at the No-One Left Behind refugee rally in Sydney. Credit: Akash Arora

Vinothini Selvarasa – a Sri Lankan Tamil who escaped war crimes in her country and moved to Australia in 2009 – was also at the rally.

Ms Selvarasa worked as a cleaner in Australia for several years and contributed to the country’s workforce but, because she is on a SHEV, her daughter is considered an overseas student.

“My daughter will soon be old enough to go to TAFE, but I don’t have the money to cover the cost of her education,” Ms Selvarasa told SBS News.

Kalyani Inpakumar, who was also at the rally, is the NSW coordinator for the Tamil Refugee Council.
She said many refugees face the challenges Ms Selvarasa faces.

“There are children who are due to go to college next year, but because their parents are on TPV or SHEV, they are considered foreign students, so they have to pay the full fee,” said Ms. Inpakumar at SBS News.

Words like “illegal” or “arrival by boat” dehumanize refugees

Ms. Inpakumar highlighted other challenges faced by POS and SHEV users.

“It’s very difficult for them to buy a house, find a job and settle in Australia,” she said.

A woman standing in front of people holding signs.  She wears a red T-shirt that reads:

Kalyani Inpakumar is the NSW Coordinator for the Tamil Refugee Council. Credit: Akash Arora

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A similar protest rally was organized by the Refugee Action Coalition in Canberra on September 6.
While this protest was underway, Andrew Giles – Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs – posted a message on his social media indicating that the Albanian government would keep its promise.

“The Albanian government is committed to transitioning those who have been found to owe our protection on temporary protection visas to permanent protection – we will keep this promise and fulfill our commitment as soon as possible,” wrote Mr. Giles on Twitter and Facebook.

But Ms Inpakumar said that although the government has made the promise, no specific timeline has been released.

“We are very happy that they have announced that all TPV and SHEV holders will have permanent protection, but it would be nice to know what the process will be and when it will take effect,” she said.

Asylum seekers on bridging visas face worse challenges

Ian Rintoul is the spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

He told SBS News that there are around 12,000 asylum seekers living on bridging visas in Australia, in addition to 19,000 refugees who are on SHEVs or TPVs.

He said their situation was even more “precarious”.

“Relay visas are often only issued for six months and this [leads to] all the difficulties with jobs, with renting, with health insurance, with schools,” Mr. Rintoul said.

Everything is for them even more difficult and more precarious for sure, including income support.

Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition

“Everything for them is even more difficult and more precarious for sure, including income support.”

According to Mr. Rintoul, while there is light at the end of the tunnel for TPV and SHEV holders thanks to the federal government’s promise to grant them permanent visas, there is nothing in the government’s program for asylum seekers in Australia on bridging visas.

‘We need a much wider commitment from Labor than what they have already committed to,’ he said.

“It’s great that they’re talking about TPVs and SHEVs, but relay visas are something they still need to sort out.”

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