A new deal struck by the Palmer United Party and Scott Morrison will prevent asylum seekers currently held in detention centres in Australia from ever being granted permanent protection visas, even after they are found to be genuine refugees.
On Thursday morning PUP leader Clive Palmer announced his party had reached an agreement with the Coalition to back the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) which will allow refugees to settle in Australia for just three years before they have their claims to asylum reassessed.
Those placed on TPVs will have work rights, and will be offered access to social security.
As part of the deal, Palmer announced a new class of visa called the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa, which will enable regional businesses and communities to make a request to have TPV holders come and fill jobs in their area.
The changes have been touted by Palmer and Minister Scott Morrison as a way to deal with the so-called ‘legacy caseload’ of around 30,000 asylum seekers who are currently in Australia and waiting to have their claims processed.
Palmer said those being held on Christmas Island will be eligible for the new visas but Morrison confirmed asylum seekers already moved to Manus and Nauru would not. Any new arrivals will be sent to offshore processing and will not be eligible for settlement in Australia.
Morrison said people currently being held on Christmas Island would not be moved to Nauru while the legislation is examined and debated by the Parliament.
Refugee advocates have accused Morrison of deliberately going slow on processing these people, a claim that has been backed by evidence presented at the AHRC’s children in immigration detention inquiry.
In response, Morrison has attacked the Greens and Labor for refusing to allow the previous attempts to reintroduce TPVs through the Parliament.
“The introduction of TPVs is a key element of the Government‘s border protection strategy to combat people smuggling and to discourage people from making dangerous voyages to Australia,” the Bill’s explanatory memorandum states.
TPVs have long been opposed by asylum seeker advocacy groups, who claim they place legitimate refugees in limbo and reinforce the psychological harm inflicted by indefinite detention.
The visa changes are part of a broader package introduced to the parliament today, which includes amendments altering the way children born in detention are classified and the relationship between Australia’s international obligations and domestic law.
The Human Rights Law Centre has been quick to raise concerns about the Bill, which looks likely to pass the Senate once it gets out of a committee review.
HRLC’s Daniel Webb said Morrison was trying to escape Australia’s obligations under international law.
“The Minister has trumpeted the TPV issue but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Lurking beneath the surface, today’s Bill contains a suite of appalling reforms which impact on the way asylum seekers will be treated both here and at sea,” Webb said.
“If these changes go ahead, some babies born in this country will be subject to mandatory detention and mandatory removal to Nauru as soon as possible.”
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