What the planned TPV changes will do
I'm afraid the announced changes are worse than I suspected they were.
Below is a summary of today's regulation changes from Charandev Singh of
the Brimbank Community Legal Centre (and RMIT) in Melbourne.
You may also care to read the transcript of Maxine McKew's ABC 7:30 Report
of last night (13 July 2004):
from Charandev Singh
What the planned changes will do:
The announced changes today have 3 elements:
1. Reintegration Package as an 'incentive' to return back (to Iraq,
Afghanistan and Iran). These are usually $3000 for individuals and $10,000
for families to leave Australia;
2. 18 month extension visa to allow for people to make arrangements for
people to return in the near future. Also allows Aust Govt 18 months to
reach agreements with the Iraqi and Afghan Interim Govts for the
deportation (forcible and otherwise) of refugees and asylum seekers;
Also minimises the need for the Govt to re-detain families and individuals
prior to removal.
3. Allows TPV holders to apply for non-refugee visas such as skilled
migration (doctors etc) close ties (those married or with other family or
close connections to Aust citizens) and a likely new class of visas for
those undertaking employment in rural and regional Australia and whose
labour is of economic significance to those areas. This is the first time
that TPV holders will be able to apply for non-protection visas onshore.
Regulations need to be passed to effect these changes and this will take at
least 6 weeks likely longer ie after the next election.
The purported changes do not do the following:
1. Do not address fundamental violations of the Refugee Convention derived
from the imposition of TPV status such as denial of family unity and
requiring proven refugees to reprove their claims repeatedly;
2. Do not address fundamental violations of Convention on Rights of the
Child as found by HREOC in 'A Last Resort' report;
3. Does not address the fundamentally discriminatory and exclusionary
impact of the TPV regime - re access to Higher education etc
4. There is no change to the Govt's commitment to using TPVs in the future
(there are now five categories of TPV);
5. Does not provide immediate end to enforced uncertainty and manifest
adverse mental and physical health impacts on TPV holders.
One of the things that hit me straight in the face, when I read this
summary, was the sour grapes the hard work of many refugee lobbyists and
advocates have eventually produced - those advocates, who have approached
their local Liberal and National MP's on the platform of - "....refugees
are good for Australia, see how hard they work and how well they contribute to
Yesterday's announcements are the product of this line, which was the only
commonly acceptable line Liberal and National MP's could seek
Utilitarianist Howard out on.
I have never really worked on that line, because in my opinion it was
Howard's undermining of the UN Convention and the Convention for the Rights
of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that I felt has
been at stake since Tampa.
By dividing TPV holders up in DESERVING and UNDESERVING refugees (ie, those
with a good job and place in the community and those without those
determinants) Howard has maintained a classic Australian Liberal party
line, and he is in fact trying to override the UN Convention and its demands for
family reunion and permanency, trying to undo the "once a refugee always a
refugee" aspect. He's treating the concept of "refugee" like "welfare
recipient" and in that attempts to further erode the universality of the UN
A refugee is not a migrant. Howard attempts to "convert" the status of
those with jobs and community integration success into migrants. It is both
radical and typical for Howard - and it lights yet another fuse under the
In addition, the new visa class of "return pending", is nothing more than a
politically smart move, avoiding the horror of re-detaining TPV holders, a
prospect that would have evoked a mini-revolution in many, many communities
that have come to know TPV holders in a terrific Australia-wide
If you are a refugee, you do NOT want to return, NEVER. In the context of
Iraq and Afghanistan, it remains to be seen how deep the cruelty of
"eventually returning" is, but for example for those fleeing from Iran,
there is no return possible.
Howard wishes to undo the protection granted to refugees under the
There is a world of difference between Labor's policies and the
government's announcements. The ALP announced it wants to convert TPV's into
permanent protection visas after three years. Howard has NO INTENTION to
follow that line, so he's come up with a "migrant" visa option.
From there on, the refugee claim will probably be VOID forever - also when
a person gets deported at a later stage, for example after collecting
In short, there is not much in it, and I really think that yesterday's
changes are a disgrace. They may satisfy the Hazaras in Young, Mudgee,
Albany and others who hold jobs and found overwhelming community support,
but the sting is in the small print. As usual with this government.
Doing the right thing by the convention is not something to say thank-you
for. It is what I expect in a UN Convention country. And Howard hasn't even
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Narrogin WA 6312
phone: 041 70 90 130