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Australia to Grant Permanent Visas to Refugees

Written by on February 13, 2023

Thousands of refugees across Australia who have lived on temporary visas for years will be eligible to permanently stay under new rules, starting Monday. Australia has, however, reiterated its support for controversial border protection measures.

Around 19,000 people who arrived in Australia before the start of Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013 will be covered by the changes.

The center-left government promised last year to abolish Temporary Protection and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas, which were described as cruel by human rights groups.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles told local media Monday that it made “no sense” to keep refugees “in limbo.”

Those granted a new visa will have the same rights as other permanent residents in Australia. They will have access to welfare payments and higher education support. They will also be able to become citizens and will be able to sponsor relatives to come to Australia.

Jana Favero, director of advocacy at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, a rights organization, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday the new visas will change lives.

“This change is truly monumental in the lives of people who are on temporary protection visas as they can now get on with and rebuild their lives, see their family and have the permanency and safety that they deserve,” Favero said.

However, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has reiterated the government’s support for the decade-old border policy and has both warned asylum-seekers not to try to come to Australia by boat and said they would not be allowed to stay if they did.

Under Operation Sovereign Borders, the navy has been towing or turning away migrant boats trying to reach Australian waters.

The policy has been condemned by rights groups.

Opposition lawmakers say the new visa changes will encourage more asylum-seekers to try to reach Australia by sea and would “enliven opportunities for people smugglers.”

 

Phil Mercer / voa


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