The Australian economy has been substantially affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19). In order to contain the spread of the virus, the Australian Government has closed its borders to all but citizens and permanent residents. This is likely to have a significant impact on a number of industries, especially those in regional areas, which have traditionally relied on temporary migration to provide much needed labour. While Australia may be managing the pandemic well within our borders, it will be a long time until we are able to open our borders to other migrants. However, refugees who are already in Australia can help address these shortfalls.
Over 17,000 people on a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) are able to fill labour shortages across Australia. The SHEV was introduced in 2014 to encourage people who are found to be refugees to move to regional Australia. If they do so, they will be able to apply for another temporary visa, with the hope (but distant reality) of eventually moving onto a permanent visa. However, the current visa system and support services have not produced these intended outcomes, with most people not residing in a regional location, nor able to utilise the pathway options.
In order to encourage refugees on a SHEV or TPV to help fill these labour shortages, there needs to be proper incentives and supports in place. People need security that they will be able to remain in Australia and continue contributing to their local communities. They need to be able to settle with their families by their side, and they need local communities who are willing and able to support them. Together, the policy changes recommended in this submission will allow refugees on SHEVs and TPVs to help address the impending labour crisis in Australia’s critical sectors and industries, such as the agriculture, meat, food processing, child care, aged care and disability care sectors. Importantly, SHEV holders can only help to fill these labour shortages with proper support and implementation of realistic pathways.