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What Minister Morrison is giving up for Lent

  • 11 March 2014

When I was young, I remember being encouraged to give up lollies or chocolate for Lent. Always a good idea, until Easter Sunday ruined the diet. Later the focus was on doing something positive in Lent, rather than giving up something relatively trivial. It seems the focus of the Immigration Minister is to give up granting Protection visas and doing nothing positive for refugees. On 4 March, he made a decision limiting the number of protection visas (those granted to refugees onshore only) to 2773. It is likely this limit has already been reached, so no more protection visas will be granted before 1 July 2014.

The Minister did this once before, on 2 December 2013, when the limit was 1650. That was at the same time as a Senate disallowance motion against the reintroduction of the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV). The TPV regulation was disallowed in the Senate, then the Minister retaliated by limiting the number of protection visa grants to 1650. Some time later he removed the limitation and visas were granted again after a new regulation was introduced to prevent the granting of protection visas to those who arrive by boat.

The stated justification is that the quota of onshore visa grants has been, or will very soon be reached. As the new Government reduced the total of the refugee and humanitarian program from 20,000 back to 13,750, this means that there are less visas available. The increase in the program to 20,000 was one of the few good things to come from the Expert panel Report of August 2012, so the reduction of over 6000 visas is an extremely retrograde step, especially as the lack of visas was one of the reasons encouraging people to get on boats in the first place.

Probably the new limitation was introduced before the Senate could vote on this new regulation as the second disallowance vote was scheduled for this week but it has been adjourned to the end of the month. The Minister decided to get in first, probably as part of the pressure on the ALP not to support the new disallowance motion.

In the meantime, the High Court is also considering the regulation that prevents the grant of any protection visa for those arriving by boat. Currently, protection visas are available if someone meets the refugee or complementary protection criteria (protection criteria), provided they did not come by boat. If they