By Annisa Essack
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Government is coming under increasing pressure from refugees in Australia to grant them permanent protection visas that would enable them to work, study, and lead more normal lives. A crowd of over a thousand activists, campaigners, and pro-refugees gathered at Parliament House last Tuesday.
The Refugee Coalition Action, Australia’s spokesperson, Ian Rintoul, joined Radio Islam International from Sydney, Australia, to shed more light on the situation.
In its election campaign, Rintoul explained that the Labour government had promised that people with temporary visas would be granted permanent visas. After five months, no timeline has been announced, and some have been waiting for more than a decade.
He added that the pressure was mounting against the Government and the immigration minister released a statement the Labour Government were still committed to providing the visas; however, there was still no timeline. This galvanised the protestors into planning further protests to highlight their plight.
The delays have a severe negative impact as families remain separated, finding work becomes difficult, and delays in renewing visas add additional issues. Many are left without adequate medical care and even education.
Furthermore, according to Rintoul, family reunions are also hampered as those with temporary visas are not eligible for family reunions.
Another factor is that children who once were eligible for permanent visas are, after a decade, no longer eligible once they turn 25 years old.
“Every day delayed has enormous consequences for people here on the temporary visas and their separated families,” he said.
Another burning issue he mentioned was those who live in offshore detention and are transferred to Australia for various reasons. They live on bridging visas and have been told that they will never become permanent residents of Australia. The Government has not committed to these people.
Rintoul says that the underlying problem is successive governments’ attitude toward people seeking asylum who come in via boats. They are discriminated against and given only temporary visas, whereas those arriving by plane are given permanent visas.
He added that Australia was a signatory to the Refugee Convention but did not uphold the rules of the convention and undermined them in practice. The Government perpetuates xenophobia; however, he says that ordinary people agree that people should receive sanctuary in Australia, which applies to refugees who want to settle in the country.
More protests are planned as refugees have become more encouraged and confident in their fight, believing the time has come for their voices to be heard.
The Fast Track System was introduced to fail asylum seekers that the organisation is asking to be reviewed. In particular, Afghans are being asked to return to Kabul, yet they are asylum seekers, and their return is non-negotiable.
Regarding the death of Queen Victoria and whether Australia would now choose to become a republic, Rintoul says that many voices are being raised, especially by the indigenous people, and there will be protests against the rule of the British Empire.
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