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Refugee Council welcomes lifting of restriction on refugee family reunion

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) welcomes today’s announcement that the Albanese Government will abolish a ministerial direction which placed refugees who arrived by boat last in decisions about family reunion. 

“The abolition of Direction 80 by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles means that refugees on a permanent visa who arrived by boat will no longer be placed at the end of the queue for family visas,” RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said. 

 The policy was first introduced in 2013 by then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, denying refugees who arrived by boat access to family reunion by placing their family visa applications behind all others. 

 “For years, refugees have been denied access to family reunion simply because of how they arrived in Australia to seek protection. This policy has caused enormous stress and anxiety for thousands of people, and has resulted in children growing up without ever knowing their parents,” Mr Power said. 

 “Direction 80, and previous versions of the policy, was pointless, adding further punishment to people who had suffered for years. Having experienced persecution at home, extended mandatory detention on arrival in Australia and often years of waiting for protection, this policy left refugees unable to put down roots in Australia even after gaining permanent residency. Its impact has been most keenly felt by refugees who have been unable to help family members still at grave risk in countries of origin or asylum. 

 “The policy should have never been introduced, and it is good to see the Albanese Government act on its commitments to abolish it.” 

 This policy change will mean that permanent visa holders who arrived by boat will now be able to sponsor family members through the migration program. However, it doesn’t change the situation for refugees on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs), who are still barred from sponsoring family members until they get a permanent visa. 

“We are still waiting for the government to fulfill its commitment to end temporary protection and grant all refugees a permanent visa. When this happens, it is good to know that they then will have the opportunity to sponsor their family members.” 

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