On 5 December 2019, the Senate resolved to establish a Select Committee on Temporary Migration to inquire into and report on the impact temporary migration has on the Australian economy, wages and jobs, social cohesion and workplace rights and conditions.
RCOA made a submission to the Select Committee, highlighting our longstanding concerns about the situation for refugee and people seeking asylum on temporary visas. RCOA’s submission focused on:
- government policy settings, including their impact on the employment prospects and social cohesion of Australians, including the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and recession has had on people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds on temporary visas;
- policy responses to challenges posed by temporary migration;
- whether permanent migration offers better long-term benefits for Australia’s economy, Australian workers and social cohesion, and
- the impact of wage theft, breaches of workplace rights and conditions, exploitation, and modern slavery on temporary migrants.
We proposed the following recommendations:
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that the Australian Government extend the COVID-19 safety net supports to people seeking asylum who have no alternative source of income to ensure that they can pay their rent, cover utilities and avoid homelessness and destitution during the pandemic and economic downturn.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that the Australian Government ensure all people have access to medical care during the pandemic and extend Medicare to people seeking asylum who do not currently have access.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that the Australian Government ensure that people do not lose their visa status. Timely visa renewals or grants, where applicable, should be prioritised to ensure people are able to remain lawful during the pandemic.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that Temporary Protection Visas (both TPVs and SHEVs) be abolished and that people on these visas be granted permanency immediately. In the absence of this recommendation being implemented, we recommend the following alternatives.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that permanent visas are available to all refugees on a SHEV or TPV who meet the SHEV pathway. This can be achieved by modifying the criteria of existing permanent skilled visas.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that the SHEV pathway be modified to reduce the amount of time that refugees need to work or study down to one year (12 months cumulative), to recognise the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian economy in the coming months and years.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends modifying the SHEV pathway to allow refugees to meet the pathway requirement by working in a designated and/or critical sector or industry impacted by COVID-19, regardless of the location of employment. Critical sectors and industries affected by and likely to experience labour shortfalls due to COVID-19 and international border closures, should be deemed ‘designated SHEV industries’ for the revised SHEV pathway. This will enable refugees not only to meet the SHEV pathway by working in regional areas, but also by working in designated industries which have chronic labour shortages or are critical sectors. SHEV industries should be designated in consultation with industry bodies.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that the Government ensure that family members overseas can be included in subsequent visa applications of SHEV or TPV holders who meet the current SHEV pathway.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that all refugees on temporary protection visas, including SHEVs, should have access to settlement support services, similar to other refugees and humanitarian entrants. As a minimum measure, people on Safe Haven Enterprise Visas who move to regional areas should have access to a full suite of settlement support services, including casework support. By doing that, service providers will be better informed of the number of people holding SHEVs in their area and will be better prepared to properly assist them.
The Refugee Council of Australia recommends that the Committee note the economic analysis that details the benefits that extending permanency to refugees on temporary visas would have on the Australian economy in the short- and long-term.