Australian immigration minister Andrew Giles announced on Monday that the government is delivering on its election commitment to providing a permanent visa pathway for some temporary visa holders.
Giles fulfilled the Labor government’s election pledge, inviting about 19,000 refugees on two kinds of temporary visas who arrived in Australia by boat before 2013 to apply for permanent residency.
The upgrade to residency will grant the refugees access to social security, universal health care, the national disability insurance scheme, higher education loans and provide a pathway to citizenship, which would allow them to bring immediate family to Australia.
Announcing the move, Giles said it made no sense to keep people who work, pay taxes, run businesses and employ Australians in limbo because of their visa status.
“Without permanent visas however, they’ve been unable to get a loan to buy a house, build their businesses or pursue further education,” he said.
“It makes no sense – economically or socially – to keep them in limbo.”
Only those who arrived in Australia before the start of Operation Sovereign Borders – the border protection operation aimed at stopping the arrival of asylum seeker boats – are eligible for residency.
Clare O’Neil, minister for home affairs, said the government is committed to the ongoing operation and that anyone who arrived in Australia by boat would not be allowed to stay in the country.
“Let me be crystal clear – if you try to enter Australia without a valid visa, you will be turned back or returned to your port of origin,” she said.
“There is zero chance of settling in Australia under Operation Sovereign Borders. The Australian Defence Force and Australian Border Force are patrolling our waters to intercept and return any boats that try to enter.” ■