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TPV holders stuck in Howard time warp

  • 20 November 2008

'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