Refugees rally for permanent visas in Australia

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Canberra, Australia – Refugees in Australia are stepping up pressure on the three-month-old government of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to deliver on a promise to give them permanent protection visas that would allow them to work and study and live more normal lives.

More than 1,000 refugees, advocates and activists converged on Parliament House on Tuesday to press their case.

“We’re here because we want action, we want change. We want to be acknowledged within this community,” said Mostafa Faraji, a speaker at the rally in Canberra.

At the moment, there are 31,000 refugees living in Australia on various temporary visas that put limits on their lives – whether it is for work, study or family relationships.

In the run-up to May’s election, Albanese’s Labor party promised to abolish some of the temporary visas and provide permanent protection in their place.

During the protest, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs of Australia Andrew Giles, posted a statement on social media reiterating the promise and saying it would be fulfilled “as soon as possible”.

There are three types of temporary visas for refugees in Australia: Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs), Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) and bridging visas. The government has promised to abolish TPVs and SHEVs.

These temporary visas are given to refugees who arrive without valid protection visas, typically coming by boat. When the holder’s temporary visa expires, their protection claim is reassessed and their visa has a possibility of being extended.

A SHEV holder could apply for a permanent visa, “but in the whole history of SHEVs only two have met the strict language [requirements] and been eligible,” Ian Rintoul, a political activist and spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, told Al Jazeera.

Someone with a TPV cannot apply for a permanent visa at all.

The visas also put constraints on people’s potential to work and study.