ASRC submission to Senate Inquiry calls on the Government to end policy of separating people seeking asylum from their families
4 May 2021
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s (ASRC) submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee on 30 April, challenges Government policy that deliberately separates people seeking asylum from their family, including children, for years.
The Senate Inquiry into the efficacy, fairness, timeliness and costs of the processing and granting of visa classes which provide for or allow for family and partner reunions, must address the multitude of ways in which asylum policy keeps people separated from their family members in its report on 10 August.
Those who arrived by sea on or after 13 August 2012 were subject to offshore processing in a regional processing country (Nauru or Papua New Guinea) and successive Governments have provided no policy for permanent resettlement in Australia, nor sponsorship for their family members.
Furthermore, thousands of people were transferred to Australia for medical treatment and remain here on bridging visas or in detention.
Around 30,000 people seeking asylum who arrived by sea to the mainland remain on temporary or bridging visas indefinitely in Australia.
Refugees who hold TPVs or SHEVs are not eligible to sponsor their family members to come to Australia due to the temporary nature of their visas.
While SHEV holders may be eligible to apply for some permanent visas after completing the pathway requirements, for most this option remains unattainable.
People are separated from their families through the following mechanisms:
- Being held indefinitely in detention centers
- Denial of permanent residency
- Increasingly long waiting times for asylum applications to be processed
- Limited pathways for people seeking asylum to apply for family reunion applications
- Absence of any overarching provisions in the Migration Act requiring family unity to be given proper weight in visa applications
- Extortionate fees – with the application for a partner visa being $7715, with $3585 for each additional applicant over 18, and $1795 for each additional applicant under 18 years of age
- Discriminating on the basis of the sponsor’s mode of arrival denying those who arrived in Australia by sea from reuniting with their loved ones
The Government’s family separation policy is extremely harmful as outlined in a new report from Human Rights Law Centre’s entitled Together in Safety, for which the ASRC’s Detention Advocacy Program provided case studies.
The ASRC’s submission to the Inquiry urges the Government to:
- Permit all people with protection visas to sponsor their family members to come to Australia
- Make family unity and the interests of children a consideration in visa applications and institute a transparent review process
- Stop the de-prioritisation of family visa applications where the sponsor arrived in Australia by sea.
- Prioritise processing of citizenship applications for people from refugee humanitarian backgrounds
Susan Dahl, refugee, mother and casual worker said: “My daughter and son were under 4 years old when I had to leave them to seek asylum, I haven’t been able to take care of them or be with them for nine years.”
“I have missed being their mother, I haven’t seen my daughter start to talk or walk, I don’t want to miss any more, I want them with me and their siblings, my children who were born here, all of us together safe in Australia.”
Carolyn Graydon, Principal Solicitor and Manager of ASRC’s Human Rights Law Program said: “The ASRC works with numerous clients for which Government policy imposes insurmountable barriers to reuniting with their children, parents, brother, and sisters.”
“This Government disproportionately and intentionally targets people who have sought protection with family separation tactics, likely breaching Australia’s international human rights obligations, as well as not giving due consideration to family unity and the best interests of the child.”
Sadaf Ismail Detention Advocacy Manager at ASRC said: “The current policy is purposefully preventing people seeking asylum from reuniting with their family, severely impacting their mental health. This is particularly distressing for those who are separated from their family while held in detention.”
“The Government needs to prioritize family reunions and facilitate policies that assist this, including an end to detention and a plan for permanent resettlement.”
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