Senate backs reintroduction of temporary protection visas
The Senate has passed sweeping changes to Australia’s immigration laws, including the re-introduction of temporary protection visas (TPV), representing a much-needed legislative win for the Abbott Government.
In exchange for the crossbencher’s support, Scott Morrison agreed to lift Australia’s refugee intake by 7,500 places, give asylum seekers on bridging visas the right to work and remove all children from detention on Christmas Island.
The new TPVs grant refugees protection in Australia for three years but could see them sent back to their home countries after that if the Government deems conditions there have improved.
New five-year safe-haven enterprise visas would also be introduced to encourage refugees to live and work in regional areas, and could eventually offer a pathway to a permanent visa.
Ben Doherty from The Guardian:
With the passage of the new law, the minister can push any asylum seeker boat back into the sea and leave it there.
The minister can block an asylum seeker from ever making a protection claim on the ill-defined grounds of “character” or “national interest”. His reasons can be secret.
He can detain people without charge, or deport them to any country he chooses even if it is known they’ll be tortured there.
Morrison’s decisions cannot be challenged.
Boat arrivals will have no access to the Refugee Review Tribunal.
Instead, they will be classed as “fast track applicants” whose only appeal is to a new agency, the Immigration Assessment Authority, but they will not get a hearing, only a paper review.
“Excluded fast track applicants” will only have access to an internal review by Morrison’s own department.
The bill is a seismic piece of legislation – one that destroys more than it creates.
The government argues the new law will remove the obstructions that exist to it fulfilling its mandate of “stopping the boats”.
While anxious to keep the “sugar off the table” for asylum seekers, Morrison has offered the Senate crossbench a series of sweeteners in exchange for their votes this week.
He has promised to soften the cuts to Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake.
The government had planned to cut the number of offshore refugees resettled by Australia from 20,000 to 13,750. The new intake will be 18,750 over the next four years.
Asylum seekers will be moved off Christmas Island to the mainland of Australia while their claims are processed. Up to 468 children will be released from detention.
And about 25,000 people currently living in Australia on bridging visas will be given the right to work.
These are significant concessions, but they are decisions Morrison could have made at any time, and they are not – despite efforts to portray them as such – in any way related to the new law.
Manus Island and Nauru currently hold 2,151 refugees and asylum seekers. Detention centres there have been blighted by violence, sexual assault, and suicide attempts, but are unaffected by the new laws, or the government’s concessions.
Asylum laws ‘violate rule of law’
Human rights lawyer David Manne said the Senate’s changes had not helped the overall package of laws.
“[The laws are] not only radical and extreme, but will violate the fundamental rights. They’ll violate the rule of law and they’ll endanger the lives,” he said.
“And one of the crucial problems with these laws is that they will deny tens of thousands of people who are here in this country seeking protection a fair hearing.”
Refugee Council of Australia spokesman Phil Glendenning said the Senate vote did not end the cruelty to children.
“Of course we’re pleased children are getting out before Christmas, but there are still children on Nauru and there are still measures here that will maintain keeping kids in limbo, keeping their families in limbo, and that’s where all the psychological analysis says that’s where the damage comes.”