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Australia’s Treatment of Afghan Refugees

How their date and mode of arrival matters more than their persecution

Since 2013, more than 23,000 Afghans have come to Australia – or sought to do so – to escape the Taliban’s insurgency and ultimate takeover of the country. Despite being affected by the same crisis in their country, their treatment in Australia has varied greatly, depending on how the Australian Government has viewed their mode and date of arrival. Here are eight different forms of status for Afghan arrivals, each with vastly different positive or negative impacts – from immediate permanent residency with full support to permanent banishment from Australia after long-term detention.

How Australia treats Afghan refugees 2202
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OFFSHORE REFUGEE PROGRAM

 1. RESETTLED BY THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT

  • Arrived on Offshore Refugee or Special Humanitarian Visa – subclasses 200 to 204
  • Given permanent residency on arrival and have access to all rights as permanent residents
  • Eligible for citizenship after four years
  • Receive practical on-arrival settlement assistance through Humanitarian Settlement Program
  • Eligible for support through Centrelink, Medicare, disability services, Adult Migrant English Program and HECS-HELP for university study

 

Offshore Humanitarian visas
2013-142,751
2014-151,813
2015-161,715
2016-171,958
2017-181,130
2018-191,323
2019-20619
2020-21562
2021-221,000
Total12,871

12,871 Offshore Refugee and Humanitarian visas granted to Afghan nationals, 1 July 2013 to 11 February 2022

EVACUATION PROCESS

2. EVACUATED TO AUSTRALIA SINCE AUGUST 2021 ON TEMPORARY HUMANITARIAN STAY VISA

  • People brought to Australia in the evacuation process following fall of Kabul in August 2021.
  • Currently on a temporary humanitarian stay 449 visa. They have until November 2022 to apply for a subsequent skilled, family or humanitarian visa. Current 449 visa holders cannot yet apply for another visa until the Minister invites them to apply, after which they have limited time to complete application.
  • Because of the cost and visa criteria, almost all will apply for a permanent offshore humanitarian visa.
  • Evacuees are eligible for settlement assistance, Adult Migrant English Program, Medicare and Centrelink Special Benefit (less than usual JobSeeker rate).
  • Being ineligible for HECS-HELP, they must pay international fees for university study. They are also ineligible for disability services and many other state services like rental bond loans because they are on a temporary visa. They will be eligible for these services once they are granted a permanent visa.

4,927 Afghan nationals evacuated to Australia on Temporary Humanitarian Stay visas as at 11 February 2022

ONSHORE PROTECTION

3. ARRIVED BY PLANE ON A TEMPORARY VISA (tourist, student or work visa, SOUGHT ASYLUM AND GIVEN PERMANENT PROTECTION

  • Waited on Bridging Visa for an extended period (often over two years) with limited assistance while asylum claim considered
  • Given permanent residency once Onshore Protection Visa (subclass 866) granted
  • Eligible for citizenship after four years
  • Receive no settlement assistance
  • Eligible for support through Centrelink, Medicare, disability services, Adult Migrant English Program and HECS-HELP for university study
Onshore Protection visas
2013-1485
2014-15123
2015-16131
2016-1779
2017-1819
2018-1948
2019-2083
2020-2179
2021-2243
Total690

690 Onshore Protection visas granted to Afghan nationals, 1 July 2013 to 31 January 2022

TEMPORARY PROTECTION

4. ARRIVED BY BOAT PRIOR TO 19 JULY 2013 AND GIVEN TEMPORARY PROTECTION (Temporary Protection Visa or Safe Haven Enterprise Visa)

  • In 2014 the Government reintroduced a three-year Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) and a new five-year Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV).
  • People on these visas have been found to be refugees but must reapply for protection every three years (for TPV holders) or five years (for SHEV holders).
  • SHEV holders have a theoretical pathway to permanency which requires them to live and work or study in regional Australia for 3½ years and then apply for a visa outside of the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Permanent visas in the Migration Program have restrictive criteria, particularly related to skills, education and English language. SHEV holders filling important labour roles and running small businesses commonly do not meet current criteria.
  • Without permanent visas and access to citizenship, TPV and SHEV holders cannot sponsor family members at risk in Afghanistan.
  • Refugees on a SHEV or TPV are not allowed to travel outside Australia, except with permission from the Department of Home Affairs in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Refugees on TPV or SHEV are eligible for Centrelink Special Benefit (less than JobSeeker), Medicare, and the Adult Migrant English Program.
  • They are not eligible for disability services (including NDIS) and must pay international fees for university study.

4,422 Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) granted to Afghan nationals, as at 31 January 2022

STILL WAITING FOR A DECISION ON THEIR ASYLUM CLAIM

5. ARRIVED BY PLANE ON A TEMPORARY VISA (tourist, student or work visa) AND STILL WAITING FOR A DECISION ON APPLICATION FOR PERMANENT PROTECTION

  • Not detained on arrival
  • Waiting on a bridging visa for an extended period (often two to three years), with short-term visas renewed every three or six months
  • Usually have the right to work
  • Usually have access to Medicare assistance
  • No access to support from Centrelink
  • No access to disability support
  • No access to Adult Migrant English Program or HECS-HELP and must pay international fees for university
  • Will get permanent protection if approved, with access to rights of permanent residents

The number of Afghan nationals in this situation is unknown – probably several hundred

6. ARRIVED BY BOAT PRIOR TO 19 JULY 2013 AND STILL WAITING FOR A DECISION ON APPLICATION FOR TEMPORARY PROTECTION (TPV or SHEV)

  • Mandatory detention upon arrival, but most are now in the community on a bridging visa (see below for those in onshore detention)
  • Waiting on a bridging visa for an extended period (often two to three years), with short-term visas renewed every three or six months
  • Usually have the right to work
  • Usually have access to Medicare assistance
  • No access to support from Centrelink
  • No access to disability services
  • No access to Adult Migrant English Program or HECS-HELP and must pay international fees for university study
  • Will get temporary protection (not permanent) if approved – see above.

248 Afghan nationals still waiting for an initial decision on a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV), as at 31 January 2022

OFFSHORE PROCESSING

7. ARRIVED BY BOAT ON OR AFTER 19 JULY 2013 AND SENT TO DETENTION IN NAURU AND MANUS ISLAND, PNG

  • From 19 July 2013, any person arriving by boat to seek asylum was sent to detention in Nauru or Manus Island and denied any opportunity to settle permanently in Australia.
  • Of the 3,127 people sent to offshore detention in Nauru and Manus Island after 19 July 2013, 1,030 have been resettled to USA and other countries, about 640 people have returned to their home countries, 14 have died and 7 were sent to Cambodia (but only one still remains there).
  • This leaves about 1,440 people still in PNG, Nauru and Australia: 114 in Nauru, 105 in PNG and about 1,220 transferred to Australia for medical reasons or to accompany family members medically transferred. Most of these people have refugee status (a small number had their refugee claims rejected and some still have cases yet to be resolved). Of those in Australia, around 65 are in detention (for no obvious reason) and the rest are living in the Australian community but cannot remain in Australia in the long-term according to Government and ALP policy.
  • Hundreds of refugees in offshore processing are still waiting for decisions on their possible resettlement to the US.
  • For those previously rejected by the US, the Refugee Council of Australia is working with MOSAIC in Vancouver and Ads Up Canada in Toronto to raise funds and sponsor refugees to Canada as part of Operation #NotForgotten. Australians have donated $4.3 million, 10 refugees have recently arrived in Canada and another 162 have applications lodged for consideration by the Canadian Government.
  • The 1,440 people still living under the offshore processing regime are all in a state of limbo waiting for a long-term solution and currently in a variety of different situations – living in the community in Nauru or PNG, in detention in Australia, in community detention in Australia and living in the community in Australia on Final Departure Bridging Visas with the right to work and access to Medicare but no other forms of assistance.

229 Afghan nationals were among the 3,127 people sent to offshore processing from 19 July 2013. 91 Afghan nationals were sent to Nauru and 138 to Manus Island.

As at 31 August 2021, 6 Afghan nationals were still in Nauru and 19 in PNG, out of locked detention but living in community housing waiting for the possibility of resettlement elsewhere.

The number of Afghan nationals temporary transferred to Australia for medical treatment is unknown, as is the number of Afghans already resettled in other countries.

ONSHORE DETENTION

8. ARRIVED BY BOAT PRIOR TO 19 JULY 2013 OR WHO HAVE HAD THEIR VISA CANCELLED AND ARE HELD INDEFINITELY UNTIL THEY CAN BE RETURNED HOME

  • People can be in held detention for a number of reasons. Those who arrive in Australia without a valid visa and are not immigration cleared (for example if they arrive by boat) are mandatorily detained without consideration of their individual circumstances and for an indefinite period. The Minister, however, can use their discretionary power to grant them a visa.
  • We know a number of people subject to offshore processing who were transferred to Australia for medical treatment remain in detention. They include people from Afghanistan.
  • People’s visas (including permanent visas) could be cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act or they can be refused a visa (and therefore remain in detention) if they are found to be of ‘bad character’.

53 men from Afghanistan are in closed detention onshore in Australia, as at 30 September 2021

How Australia treats Afghan refugees 2202
Size : 337 kB Format : PDF

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