Migration review fails to address the harmful system people seeking asylum are subject to

Media Release
27 April 2023

The “Review of the Migration System” report, released today, has overlooked the urgent changes needed to ensure a fair and effective humanitarian visa system for people seeking asylum and refugees.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil’s speech today at the National Press Club on a new migration system for Australia’s future failed to address the broken process refugees and people seeking asylum face. A short reference to the recent pathway to permanency for people on Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV) was the only time people seeking asylum were mentioned during the speech.

The report similarly did not reference the harmful and punitive visa application process people seeking asylum are subjected to. Instead, the report focused on the economic benefits of refugees, disregarding the role successive governments have had in undermining the ability of refugees to rebuild their lives.

Refugees and people seeking asylum are currently denied the fundamental human rights everyone should have, while subjected to an application process that has deteriorated due to choices made by previous governments.

The average time a person seeking asylum will wait for the Department to finalise a protection visa application is nearly three years, compared to less than a year in 2018, with an additional three years for people who go through the Tribunal review process, which previously took a matter of months, and years more to have court matters resolved. It is not uncommon for people to wait a decade for their application for protection to be processed.

These long waiting periods are due to choices by the government to neglect the rights of people seeking asylum and deny a swift application process. During this time people seeking asylum are often prevented from studying, working and have no access to any form of mainstream social support, this has lasting impacts.

It is missed opportunity for the review to neglect the deep problems with the harmful system people seeking asylum and refugees face while waiting for permanent protection.

Saajeda Samaa, Community Organiser at ASRC and refugee, said: “The immigration system is designed to slow down the visa process for people seeking asylum. Basically to punish them for coming to Australia and to discourage others looking for safety to come to this country. This process needs comprehensive reform if the government wants refugees and people looking for safety to meaningfully participate in society.

When I came to Australia I thought my struggles to cope with discrimination, war and instability were over. However, as soon as I filed my application for asylum, I felt like I became no one. I lost my identity, I lost my recognition, I lost my legal status and with that I lost my work experience and academic recognition too.

I found that the physical threat that I and my children were facing due to the effects of war back in my homeland may have ended but now there is another war that I am facing and that was the war with the system. The process was complex, slow and hugely expensive. There is no support available, it stops you from having basic human rights and living a “normal” life.”

Hannah Dickinson, Principal Solicitor at ASRC, said: “Refugees are an integral part of the community and an integral part of migration. Neglecting Australia’s humanitarian system in its review of the migration system is a significant missed opportunity that leaves the government with an incomplete picture of systemic failure and at risk of adopting a fragmentary approach to reform.

Refugee and migration policies are interwoven: to ensure integrity and address issues like worker exploitation, inaccessibility, and extraordinary inefficiency, a complete picture is needed. The Government must recognise the contributions refugees and people seeking asylum make to the community and address the current intolerable flaws in the system holistically.”


Media contact: Sam Brennan sam.b4@asrc.org.au or 0428 973 324

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