Asylum seeker visa freeze petty - 'a new low'

“The Government’s decision to suspend the granting of new permanent protection visas for asylum seekers is a new low in Australia’s treatment of some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” Edmund Rice Centre director, Phil Glendenning said today.

“By capping onshore protection visas at just 1,650 places, the Government is condemning refugees who have already been found to be owed protection by Australia, to a life of fear and uncertainty on bridging visas,” he said. 

“This policy announcement from the Government, in response to the defeat in the Senate of their attempt to reintroduce Temporary Protection Visa legislation, is a petty act. This is partisan politics at its worst,” Mr Glendenning stated.

“Australians would rightly be ashamed of a Federal Government that is so willing to inflict cruelty and punishment on people fleeing persecution and torture, simply in order to teach their political opponents a lesson.”

“Suspending the granting of new permanent refugee protection visas will serve to exacerbate a deteriorating protection environment for the world’s refugee and asylum seekers,” Mr Glendenning said. 

“In industrialised countries in 2012, asylum applications world-wide increased by 8 percent from the previous year – reaching the second-highest level in the past 10 years.”

“At a time when the number of people displaced by persecution and conflict in the world is increasing, Australia is turning its back on those in urgent need.”

“These refugees have been assessed to be in need of protection from persecution. Even though they might currently be living in a legal limbo in the community, the Government must accept the reality that one way or another many of them, will become long-term residents,” Mr Glendenning said. 

“Past experience from the Howard Government years clearly shows that the great majority of people granted TPVs were never able to return home safely and ultimately were given permanent protection in Australia.”

“Of the 11,000 people granted TPVs, more than 9,500 were given permanent protection by the Howard Government before it left office in 2007.”

“Permanency and security are fundamental parts of the process of building a new life, and are how we can best ensure that recognised refugees are able to make the best possible contribution to Australian society.”

“For refugees who cannot safely return to their country of origin in the foreseeable future, the Federal Government must find a form of protection that will allow them to settle and make a long-term contribution to Australia,” Mr Glendenning affirmed.

“Placing vulnerable people’s lives on hold will separate families for many years and will cause lasting harm to their mental health. This is the worst possible start for people adjusting to a new life in Australia.”

Over the past ten years the Edmund Rice Centre has conducted research into what happens to Australia's rejected asylum seekers. Two major reports have been so far published Deported to Danger and Deported to Danger II – leading to the making of the television documentary, A Well Founded Fear, which screened nationally in 2008.

For interview or comment contact:- 

Phil Glendenning: 0419-013-758 or Sean Cleary: 0403-434-512 

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