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Hamid crushed by Australia's immigration laws

  • 28 September 2015

With a change at the helm of government, there was some speculation that the hardline and aggressive approach in immigration may be softened, though the minister has not changed.

There are no signs of an aggiornamento so far though, with the rhetoric relatively unchanged, especially regarding those stuck in Manus and Nauru. The focus on centralised control and militarisation of immigration has meant that the flexibility needed in this complex area has not been available.

If you create a legal system that has around 19 sections of the Act just dealing with preventing people from applying for protection in Australia, unless the minister personally intervenes, it illustrates a very strict and tight approach — no other visa category is so heavily regulated. Many asylum seekers are being crushed by an uncompromising structure that prevents them from obtaining any certainty in where they can live beyond a few years.

Consider the situation of 'Hamid' (not his real name). He is stateless and came to Australia by boat in mid 2012. He sought protection and his case remains under consideration. Hamid is married and has five children, who remain in another country also unable to resolve their statelessness.

Let us assume Hamid can meet the narrowed definition of a refugee that we use in Australia. The best he gets is a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) for three years.

The TPV is a cruel and punitive visa that prevents refugees from applying for anything else apart from another punishing TPV or the Palmer inspired SHEV visa. The SHEV is another version of the TPV but is valid for five years, and allows an applicant to apply for many non refugee visas provided they work or study in designated regional areas for up to 42 months. So far only NSW has signed up for the SHEV.

At the time this was enacted in December 2014, the former immigration minister noted that he thought only a small number of the 30,000 awaiting decisions on their cases would ever benefit from a SHEV to convert their visa to something more permanent.

This is especially so for the older refugees, like Hamid. He is 47, and has some skills in a trade. He could move to a regional area of NSW, work in his trade, and apply for the SHEV. Hopefully 42 months after the grant of the SHEV (however long that will take) he can seek sponsorship on a 457 visa for his trade, assuming