TPV holders stuck in Howard time warp

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End of TPVs'Ali' and 'Hussein' are both Iraqi refugees in Australia. Ali arrived 3 months ago and applied for a protection visa which was granted last week. He was very relieved as now he has permanent residence in Australia and is now preparing to sponsor his wife and two children who are in Jordan. Hussein arrived two years ago and was granted a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV).

Hussein made an application for a further protection visa in March but he is still waiting for a decision. He depends totally on the money he earns driving taxis. Hussein is very worried for his wife and young children. He had to flee after receiving death threats from one of the militias and had no time to make plans for his family. He could only promise to send money and to sponsor them as soon as he could. The TPV holds him back.

The TPV was introduced in October 1999 by the Howard government. It affected mainly asylum seekers who arrived in Australia without a visa and were later granted refugee protection. Though TPV holders could work and live in Australia, they could not sponsor their spouse or dependent children to join them in Australia. Neither could they travel overseas to meet with family in a safe third country and then return to Australia. They had to wait until their further protection visa was decided. This could not be granted until 30 months had passed from the grant of their TPV.

When the Rudd government abolished the TPV on 9 August, refugees and their supporters were delighted. But Hussein and many others continue to suffer from the visa. By law, TPV holders whose application for a further protection visa was undecided by 9 August 2008 were automatically to be considered for the Resolution of Status Visa. They did not need to show again that they were refugees but only needed to pass the character requirements. Protection visa applications should be decided within 90 days by law — unless the applicant holds one of the old TPVs.

A number of people like Hussein still live in the TPV limbo. Even though they made applications for the permanent protection visa some time ago they still have a TPV. Many are still separated from their immediate family, some for more than three years. But a refugee like Hussein who holds a TPV has to wait longer to get the permanent protection they need to sponsor their family than do a new arrivals like Ali. They can make an application under the new faster system.

The security checks are being done very quickly For the cases that fall within the 90-day rule, security checks are done quickly. Most refugees receive their visas, mostly within the 90 days. That is a great blessing. But because the 90-day rule does not apply to the old TPV caseload, which includes Hussein, the Immigration Department and ASIO officers areunder no pressure to finish them quickly. So Hussein and others wait long for these checks to be completed. Some cases are taking more than six or nine months. As a result refugees continue to be separated from their families who live in dangerous situations.

This is just one example of the harm caused by the TPV. Not only TPV holders suffer, but also their families who could have been sponsored if refugees were given permanent protection visas.

Although many were happy to see the end of the TPV, the changes were not complete. So Hussein and many like him are stuck in the old system. It is to be hoped that the government will complete the reform of the system that is needed to resolve such cases quickly. This can be done, as we see in the cases of new protection visa applicants such as Ali.

Resolution of Temporary Protection Visa and Temporary Humanitarian Visa Caseload (Department of Immigration and Citizenship)

Mohammad Dawlat-Hussain (left), a 28-year-old Afghan refugee joined Imigration Minister Chris Evans (right) at a Parliament House press conference on 15 May 2008, where Senator Evans announced details of the end of the Temporary Protection Visa regime (from Department of Immigration and Citizenship website).

Kerry MurphyKerry Murphy is a solicitor and accredited specialist in Immigration Law. He is a former Jesuit Refugee Service coordinator, now studying Arabic, and one of the authors of The Immigration Kit: A Practical Guide to Australia's Immigration Law (Federation Press 2008).


Topic tags: tpv, temporary protection visa, asylum seekers, chris evans, rudd government



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Existing comments

Thanks Kerry for this article reminding us of the quite desperate situatiopn of many refugees still on TPVs. Chris Evans has ddone well in many of the reforms already initiated and we can only hope that more can be done quickly for these refugees and with the many rejected asylum seekers sent from Nauru and Australia still in great danger as last night's SBS "A Well Founded Fear' shows.

Carmel Leavey | 20 November 2008  

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