The Australian Government treats refugees very differently depending on whether the person had permission to enter Australia (a valid visa). One of the main differences is that a refugee who arrived without a valid visa can only get a visa for a limited time, while those who arrived with valid visas have permission to stay permanently.
This policy was reintroduced by the current Australian Government and was made law in 2014. The law applies, however, to all people seeking asylum who had not been given a permanent visa, even if they arrived before the law changed.
There are now two types of temporary visas for refugees who arrived without valid visas: temporary protection visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs).
Temporary protection visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs)
The main differences between the TPVs and the SHEVs are:
- a TPV gives a refugee protection for three years and a SHEV for five years
- a person with a TPV cannot apply for any kind of permanent visa and a person with a SHEV can apply for a permanent migration visa (but not a permanent protection visa).
TPV and SHEV holders can work, get Medicare, and get some social support payments through Centrelink payments. However, they cannot sponsor family members to come and live with them in Australia, and they cannot leave and return to Australia without permission. Even if they live in Australia all their lives, they cannot get the same services and supports that others can – for example, they cannot get government-funded financial assistance for further education.
To get a SHEV, a person (or his or her family member) must intend to work and study in a particular regional area. For more information about the conditions of the SHEV, see our page on the SHEV.
To get to apply for a permanent visa after the five years, a person holding a SHEV must meet other conditions, including working or studying in a particular regional area for 3½ years and not getting certain types of social support payments. Even then, they must meet all the conditions for the permanent migration visa (for example, a partner or an employment visa), because they cannot apply for a permanent protection visa.
Temporary protection visas were first introduced in Australia in 1999, and abolished in 2008. Between 1999 and 2007, there were 11,206 grants of TPVs and 95% of these eventually got permanent protection. The rest were given permanent protection when TPVs were abolished in 2008.
In 2013, the Australian Government tried to reintroduce temporary protection visas through regulations but this was stopped by the Australian Parliament. In December 2014, the law was changed to create TPVs and SHEVS.
What’s wrong with temporary protection?
Safety and uncertainty
Temporary protection means that people cannot feel truly safe, because their protection is for a limited time. After three or five years, they may be forced to return home. There is strong evidence that this uncertainty contributes to mental illness, especially among children and young people who cannot plan for a stable future.
Family and settling
People who hold temporary protection visas will never be able to reunite with their family. This makes life very difficult for those who fear what will happen to their family, and makes it very difficult for people to settle into a new life.
Never quite one of us
People who hold temporary protection visas do not, even if they live here for the rest of their lives, have the same rights and access to services as the rest of us. As temporary residents, they cannot become citizens, or vote. They do not have the same rights to our social support system, even though they are more vulnerable than most of us. This discrimination makes it very hard for them to integrate into Australian society.
A waste of time and effort
Temporary protection is a waste of time and resources. It means people have their claims reassessed again every three to five years, even if nothing has changed in their home country. That drains government resources and makes it very difficult for refugees, who have to prove themselves again and again.