Wednesday, 14 May 2008

The end of temporary protection visas for refugees is a step forward for human rights

Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes has welcomed the announcement in last night’s Federal Budget of the abolition of the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) system for refugees.

“The Temporary Protection Visa policy has created an unjust two-tiered system for refugees and has caused undue suffering and distress for many people trying to escape persecution,” said Commissioner Innes. “I congratulate the government for ending this heartless policy and giving refugees and their families permanent protection at last.”

Under the TPV system, which was introduced by the Howard Government in 1999, refugees who arrive in Australia without a visa are only granted a three-year TPV in the first instance. This contrasts with the permanent protection visas granted to refugees who have applied from outside Australia.

The temporary nature of the visa condemns refugees and their families to an uncertain future. This compounds the impact of trauma and suffering which has already been experienced by many TPV holders prior to their arrival in Australia.

“TPV holders have no rights to family reunion and are effectively unable to leave the country for the duration of their visa,” said Commissioner Innes. “This has meant that many refugees have been separated from their families for indefinite periods of time.”

The budget also contained the announcement that existing and former holders of a TPV who are still in Australia will have access to a non protection permanent visa, with the same benefits and entitlements of the Permanent Protection visa, and without the need for a reassessment of protection obligations.

“It is only right that these individuals and families will now be given permanent visas,” said Commissioner Innes. “I hope that they can make a new life for themselves in Australia without fear for their safety and future hanging over their heads.”

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, A last resort? in 2004, highlighted the terrible impact of TPVs on refugee children. HREOC found that the lack of family reunion rights combined with inability to leave the country breached the human rights of refugee children.

Media contacts: Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529