Some relief for temporary visa holders

Refugees in Australia are desperately wondering when the Labor federal government will fulfil its election promise to grant them permanent visas, seven months on.

Labor committed to scrapping temporary protection visas (TPVs), which refugee advocates estimate are held by more than 30,000 people, many of whom have been in migration limbo for more than 10 years.

Federal Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles told AAP TPV holders, who were kept in a state of migration-limbo by the former government, "were owed our protection".

"I am currently considering options on how best to resolve the current cohort's visa status," Mr Giles said, without providing a definite timeline.

But on Saturday the minister did announce changes that will make it easier for TPV and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEVs) holders to travel outside of Australia.

This government will take a more "expansive" approach when considering applications on compassionate or other compelling circumstances.

"Under these changes, TPV and SHEV holders will still be required to request permission to travel to a third country, and still cannot travel to the country by reference to which they were found to engage protection obligations," Mr Giles said.

"However, the new policy will broaden the circumstances in which they are able to travel to a third country."

As of September 2022, there were nearly 20,000 people on TPVs and SHEVs. This includes about 1900 still at the review stage and almost 10,000 who have been failed by the "fast track" process, which applied to boat arrivals before they were sent for offshore processing in 2014.

"People on TPVs - which are reassessed every three or five years - work, pay taxes, start businesses, employ Australians and build lives in our communities," Mr Giles told AAP.

"But their precarious status was highlighted during COVID when many TPV and SHEV holders ... were unable to access government support.

"They should, simply, be allowed to get on with their lives, and this government will stop wasting taxpayer money reassessing their visas."

But the key question - since Labor won government in May - is when.

"I don't understand why it is taking so long for a timeline or an announcement," Jana Favero, director of advocacy and campaigns at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said.

"Labor has been committed to permanent protection for over a decade. Each additional day without a timeframe is causing incredible stress and distress."

Ian Rintoul from the Refugee Action Coalition concedes the delay is a mystery.

"As we saw with the Nadesalingam family (Biloela's Tamil asylum seeker family), ministerial intervention can grant a permanent visa very quickly," he said.

In August, Mr Giles intervened to grant the family permanent residency after a prolonged campaign to free them from detention and stop their deportation.

Still awaiting permanency is Zaki Haidari, 28, an Afghan Hazara refugee who arrived in Australia by boat in 2012.

"I have been living through this cruel policy since being on bridging visas for three years with no work rights, being detained on Christmas Island and in Tasmania," he told AAP.

After moving to Sydney in 2013, Mr Haidari won a scholarship to study before receiving refugee status and a SHEV visa three years later. He learned English, has two university diplomas and is a refugee rights campaigner at Amnesty International.

"Ten years on we still don't have our basic human rights; we do have work rights and a safe place to live. We still have our family members trapped in war zones, we still don't have a potential future here. It's time to give some hope to refugees," Mr Haidari said.

TPVs were introduced by the Howard coalition government in 1999 and abolished by the Rudd Labor government in 2008 before being reintroduced by the coalition in 2013.

Under TPVs, refugees have limited access to work, study and social welfare support.

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