What are Temporary Protection Visas?

Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) are given to asylum seekers who are found to be in need of protection, in place of a Permanent Protection Visa. Ordinarily, asylum seekers would be granted refugee status under the same criteria, but instead only temporary protection (lasting 3 years) is given.

TPVs were first introduced in Australia in 1999 and were eventually removed in 2008. During this period 11,206 refugees were placed on Temporary Protection Visas and eventually 95% were given permanent protection.

Are TPVs being used now?

TPVs were reintroduced by the new Coalition Government on 18 October 2013 as it was a key election promise. The new TPV regime sought to affect asylum seekers who arrived by boat before 19 July 2013 and had not had their protection application finalised, and for plane arrivals who arrive with false documents.

On Monday 3 December 2013 the Australian Senate disallowed the re-introduction of TPVs leaving the Government unable to grant them to asylum seeker. In response the Government implemented a freeze on any type of protection visas being granted, leaving 33,000 people whose Bridging Visas had expired with no legal recourse.

What are the new regulations?

The Government’s reintroduction would have had the result that anyone who held or was on a TPV would never be eligible for a permanent visa. Under the new regulations, those who had not had their determinations finalised would only get a TPV, not permanent residency. Meaning someone found to be a refugee in Australia, but is yet to have their claim finalised with security and health checks, would only be granted a TPV. There are around 30,000 asylum seekers who are waiting for their application to be finalised.

A TPV lasts for three years, and once the visa expires after three years, the holder has to reapply for another TPV.

TPV holders will have:

  • Access to some medical and welfare services
  • No access to family reunion or travel rights
  • the right to work, and;
  • children may in the future have access to public education

To be granted permanent protection, a TPV holder requires ministerial approval if the minister believes it is in the national interest. As of yet there is no definition of the ‘national interest’.

What is wrong with TPVs?

TPVs will create a ‘second class’ of refugees, according to UnitingJustice Australia, by ‘pitting those who arrive by boat against others who also have a valid claim for protection’. During 1999 – 2008, in contrast to permanent visa holders, TPV holders faced a number of issues such as:

  • Uncertainty about their future
  • Unable to apply for family reunion
  • A bar from most forms of financial support
  • Unable to achieve English classes or translation services
  • No access to emergency accommodation and limited access to housing
  • Creates a cycle of poverty and disadvantage creating a psychological trauma and distress

Australia was found to be the only country found to grant Temporary Protection to refugees who had gone through the entire determination process and found to be in need of protection.

Further the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry, A Last Resort?found that TPVs contravened Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

TPVs may have been harsh, didn’t they stop dangerous boat journeys?

TPVs are a form of punitive punishment that did not deter boat arrivals, nor stop deaths at sea. TPVs were seen as a punishment rather than a deterrent.

In 2000, the first full year after TPVs were introduced, there were 2,939 arrivals.  In 2001, by the time the policy was in full force, arrivals rose to more than 5,000.

Refugees on TPVs were denied being able to reunite with their families, and many women and children of TPV holders in Australia were a part of the 288 that drowned in October 2001.

With over 90% of TPV holders between 1999 to 2008 being granted permanent protection, shows that refugees need permanent protection, not temporary protection, to get on with their new lives.

What are the visas being used after the dis-allowance of TPVs?

In place of TPVs, asylum seekers began being offered Humanitarian Stay Temporary Visa (HSTV) that leads to a Temporary Humanitarian Concern Visa (THCV) and these are similar to TPVs.

The granting of these visas was the subject of a case before the High Court. On 11 September 2014 the High Court found in a unanimous decision that granting these visas was invalid. This means these visas cannot be granted to asylum seekers, but it does not mean they now must be granted permanent protection, rather their futures still remain in limbo.