22 March 2023

Visa uncertainty ends for thousands of refugees, but many still stuck in limbo

Refugees on certain temporary visas will be allowed to apply for permanent visas. Photo: John Englart.

Maya Pilbrow

16 February 2023

Several thousand refugees will be provided permanent visa pathways as the Albanese government fulfils an election promise.

Refugees who have applied for a Temporary Protection Visa or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa before 14 February 2023 will be allowed to apply for a permanent Resolution of Status visa.

According to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre there are nearly 20,000 people living on such visas.

Embrace Refugees Australia refugee development consultant Naomi Chua said this announcement was long overdue, but that she was glad to see a more compassionate approach to refugees and asylum seekers from the government.

Ms Chua said the process of waiting for permanent visas severely impacted the mental health of refugees and asylum seekers.

“[They have] literally been living in a no man’s land, unable to move, the limbo further compounding trauma they carried,” Ms Chua said.

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The Reverend Lydia Thangadurai said living on a temporary visa resulted in high levels of stress and uncertainty.

Ms Thangadurai, who is not a refugee but has spent almost 17 years on various temporary visas, said her own experiences had shown her how frustrating and exhausting the process could be.

She said her own journey through the migration system would not have been possible without support from her church community.

Navigating the bureaucracy of migration required lawyers, money and strength of will, according to Ms Thangadurai.

“I remember thinking, I have all sorts of support here from the cathedral and people helping me. And I’m not really sure [about so many aspects of the process]. How have refugees been doing it?” she said.

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Ms Chua said many other asylum seekers on different types of visas were still in limbo.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, several thousand refugees will still face visa uncertainty. Many of these are included within the so-called Legacy Caseload, referring to those who arrived by boat before 2013.

“I hope [the government] can continue to show such compassion to those asylum seekers in other visa categories as well,” Ms Chua said.

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