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Light at the end of a very dark tunnel

In February, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) welcomed the Albanese Government’s long-awaited announcement to end the cruel and unnecessary policy of temporary protection.

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Refugees subject to this policy have been waiting anxiously for more than 10 years for the right to safety and security in Australia.

This includes refugees like Abdul Noori, who has been living in limbo for more than a decade.

Abdul was just 15 years old when he arrived in Australia after escaping persecution in Afghanistan.

He recalled: “I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid of not being able to live. I was afraid of discrimination and ignorance. These fears and hopes gave me the determination and strength to leave everything behind and seek a better future.”

When he arrived in Australia as an unaccompanied minor, Abdul was placed in immigration detention for 17 months. After his release into the community, he was granted a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV).

The SHEV was introduced by the Liberal-National Coalition Government in 2014, along with a three- year Temporary Protection Visa (TPV), as the only forms of protection available to 31,000 people who arrived by boat and were waiting to hear about their refugee claim.

Refugees on TPVs and SHEVs have been unable to get a loan for a home or a business; most importantly, nor could they reunite with separated family members.

Newsletter x In Abdul’s case, the SHEV hindered his chance of attending university to achieve his dream of becoming a teacher. Because he didn’t have a permanent visa, he faced yearly fees of around $35,000–an impossible amount for a young man his age to save. The SHEV made it difficult to secure ongoing employment, and also made him ineligible for most Centrelink payments. After almost two years of pursuing universities, Abdul became the recipient of a university scholarship.

“For almost a decade, I was fighting for an uncertain future, fighting to have equal rights, hoping that one day I will not be discriminated against,” Abdul said.

Today it’s a bittersweet feeling, knowing I can finally call Australia home and be granted the same rights and liberties as my friends, neighbours, co-workers and peers.

Currently, Abdul works two jobs and studies full- time to sustain his life in Canberra, which leaves little time for sleep. Permanent residency will mean he is eligible for social security payments such as Centrelink, which will ease his incredible financial burden and enable him to focus on his studies.

The Federal Government’s watershed decision to change TPV and SHEVs will be transformative for Abdul, and for the nearly 20,000 others in his situation.

He’ll soon be able to travel and visit his family, find permanent work after completing his degree and gain a pathway to Australian citizenship.

It’s certainly the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. But there are still people who have been on dangerous journeys like mine just to find peace and security, who have not yet been afforded this opportunity.

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Abdul said that the indefinite saga of his visa and his financial situation has taken an incredible toll on his mental health. Now, the change in policy means he can finally enjoy the security he deserves.

“Change of policy for me and 20,000 people means hope,” he said.

“It means equal rights, it means end of torture, it means end of dehumanisation. This is a change that we should celebrate as a country. This change is the core of Australian values that we all take pride in.”

It is thanks to YOUR support that people like Abdul have finally been given the opportunity to share their full potential to the wider Australian community.

While we celebrate the end of this policy, RCOA remains concerned that the announcement does not provide hope and a clear pathway for those who have been rejected through the unfair “fast track process”, despite Labor politicians’ acknowledging the unfairness of the process. We will continue to advocate for this group, and we hope you continue to raise your voice with us to provide clear pathways for all refugees and people seeking asylum.

Image credit: Phoenix Image

Information on the process of ending TPVs and SHEVs

Your Voice: Autumn 2023 newsletter

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