Australia

Major parties refuse to permanently resettle hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers ahead of election

More than 500 refugees and asylum seekers will be left with nowhere to go after Labor and the Coalition refused to commit to negotiating more places in overseas resettlement programs.
The government recently finalised a deal to send and approximately 250 places remain on
But there are currently around 1,380 refugees and asylum seekers who came to Australia after the Rudd Labor government introduced rules in 2013 preventing asylum seekers who arrive by boat from ever settling in the country.
Once those overseas places are filled, the hundreds left will remain stranded.
is one of those in limbo and has been fighting for more certainty.
“The future is still uncertain and day by day we lose our hope. The last nine years we haven’t had any hope in our lives,” he told SBS News.

Mr Selvarasa arrived at Christmas Island by boat on 26 July 2013, aged 21.

It was just one week after Labor changed its boat arrival policy.
He was sent to Melbourne under the in August 2018, then released from detention in January 2021. He now lives in Sydney on a bridging visa which he must renew every six months.
“We don’t have anything and it’s very hard to build our lives in the community,” he said.
“We can’t get permanent jobs; all the companies expect permanent visas.”
He’s currently working as an NDIS support worker and forklift driver, and has travelled to Canberra to advocate for those in the same situation as him.

Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill said these refugees need to be prioritised.

Sri Lankan refugee Thanush Selvarasa standing at a podium.

Sri Lankan refugee Thanush Selvarasa has advocated for more rights for refugees.

“It’s devastating to see that these people have just been forgotten about. These are people who have spent years and years now enduring horrific circumstances,” he told SBS News.

‘Let’s end this cruelty’

The vast majority of the 1,380 people have already been declared refugees, with most living in Australia and about 200 living in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Those in Australia are deemed “transitory persons” on Final Departure Bridging Visas, which have restrictions on work and education opportunities.

The Coalition maintains this group will never settle in Australia but hasn’t announced another overseas pathway.

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Ms McNeill said the New Zealand deal was a good start but there needs to be more done.
“It’s only 450 people and that’s great for those people but it still leaves hundreds of people without any safety, without a clear resettlement option and there’s just more uncertainty for them,” she said.

“We should draw a line here and say this is no longer who we are and let’s end this cruelty.”

Permanent protection option opens for others

There are close to 20,000 refugees in Australia on temporary protection visas (TPVs) who came by boat before the policy to bar them settling in Australia was established.
Labor has committed to bringing them onto permanent protection visas, which will give many the opportunity to work and study.
Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally made the announcement in April, after Opposition leader Anthony Albanese fumbled on the campaign trail, accidentally saying Labor would support TPVs.
He later clarified that while Labor supports third-country resettlement and offshore processing, it doesn’t support TPVs.
Senator Keneally told reporters last month refugees on the visa have been living in Australia for more than a decade.
“Every few years, these refugees have to go through another assessment process. To what end? To what purpose? Nothing except the waste of taxpayer money,” she said.

“The Department of Home Affairs is clogged and backlogged.”

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Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reaffirmed those refugees would remain on TPVs under his government.
“In August of 2008, Kevin Rudd abolished temporary protection visas. That was the green light to Labor’s border protection failures,” Mr Morrison told reporters at the time.
“That was the day they said people smugglers are in business and from that day on, the boats came, and they just kept coming and they just kept coming.”
But neither party is talking about the future of those who arrived after 19 July 2013.
Refugee Council of Australia CEO, Paul Power, said it will be up to the next government to fix the issue that’s been plaguing the country for nine years.
“Finding places that people will be able to remain in the long term is extremely hard work,” he said.
“The situation of growing displacement around the world in Ukraine, Afghanistan and many other places has made the competition for resettlement places much more challenging.”
Mr Selvarasa said he just wants a peaceful life.
“We can’t forward our life with hope, every six months we have to renew visa, we don’t want this issue forever,” he said.

And his message to politicians: “Please give us a good solution to rebuild our lives.”

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