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New visa status can mean a fresh start for asylum seekers


Major Karen Elkington says a new visa status can mean starting afresh for those waiting to fully enter the community after arriving by boat.



By KIRRALEE NICOLLE

The timely enactment of Labor Government commitments to provide Resolution of Status (RoS) visas to those waiting in limbo would completely transform the lives of many who came to Australia seeking asylum, a Salvation Army refugee worker says.


Immigration minister Andrew Giles announced on 13 February 2023 that the Albanese government would fulfil an election promise to move Temporary Protection visa (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise visa (SHEV) holders onto permanent visas.


The new RoS visa status would apply to eligible candidates who entered the country as unauthorised maritime arrivals between 13 August 2012 and the end of December 2013, before the introduction of the Operation Sovereign Borders initiative.


Brunswick Asylum Seeker and Refugee Service manager Major Karen Elkington said many of those she worked with at the centre had been living on very minimal incomes, with no access to Medicare, Centrelink or other government services. She said many relied on charity to survive, and while some had applied for refugee status due to changes in the Migration Act, many claims had been rejected.


“Those people are basically languishing in the community,” Karen said.


“I said [to them] your life would literally change overnight.”

She said some of those she worked with had approached her to ask how the new visa status might change their situation.


“I said [to them] your life would literally change overnight,” she said. “It means people's lives start afresh. It means that children who haven’t been able to access higher education can. It means that people with disabilities can access the NDIS.”


Karen said one young man at the centre had come to Australia with his family as a young boy but was now studying at university and unable to access government study support.


“If all of a sudden he gets a resolution of status visa, that means he can be like an Australian or an Australian citizen or someone here on a permanent refugee visa,” she said. “[He] can actually apply for the loan.”


Karen said once he began to look for a graduate job, he would also have trouble finding work because of his visa status.


She said while official data on how many visas had been issued was still to be released, some of those she knew who were on temporary visas had been able to obtain RoS visas, but others were finding the process lengthy and challenging.


“I think it was the Minister’s intention that it would be a fairly quick process; however, it’s still taking some time,” she said. The turnaround has been rather quick for some people, whereas [for] other people, it’s just taking a little bit longer.


“It would be lovely to see the government get through it [all] in 12 months. That would be absolutely magic.”


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