Frequently asked questions. If you have further questions please get in touch.
Can a person who has their application rejected apply for a review?
The Minister alone will decide whether a person’s case will be reviewed. They will be heard by a new body, Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) based only on a person’s files.
They will not have the opportunity of a new hearing and people will not be allowed to provide new information to the IAA except in exceptional circumstances where a person must explain why the information was not presented in the first place. The facts and merits of a person’s case will not be re-heard. The IAA can only test whether the law has been properly applied.
People seeking asylum are in various stages of the fast track process. It is a time of high anxiety and stress.
Those who have their applications approved are no longer eligible for a case worker and have to navigate their way through employment pathways, perhaps moving to a regional area with all the issues associated with this. They have not been eligible for formal English classes and many of them do not have the level of English required for employment.
Those who have a negative outcome face great uncertainty about their future. Some have limited access to Medicare. It is common practice now to give everyone work rights with the expectation they can support themselves. Centrelink benefits are no longer available to them.
Some will apply for a hearing at the Federal Circuit Court but this is a costly and there is a long waiting period. It is their last hope of their negative decision being reversed.
People with a negative outcome face homelessness and destitution. It has a serious impact on their wellbeing and mental health. They could be redetained in an immigration detention centre and sent back to their country of origin or left to languish in the community without any income support and access to Medicare.
We do not know what will happen to everyone but we do know there are increasing numbers in this situation. They need support and assistance from community members to keep them engaged and alive and provided with the essentials of food, shelter, medical care and employment opportunities.
What will happen if their application for a temporary protection visa is rejected?
After a rigorous interview process, decision makers within immigration decide if the application meets the criteria for refugee status; if the application is believable and the proof provided by the applicant that it is unsafe to return, is credible.
If the application is rejected the person is expected to return to their country of origin. However some countries will not accept people who have left seeking asylum elsewhere. These people have no option but to stay here.
It is unclear what is going to happen to them. Strict conditions are placed on their Bridging Visa.
Some people will be forced to return to the country and situation from which they originally fled.
What is the difference between a TPV and a SHEV?
A Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) lasts for 3 years and the person can live anywhere in Australia. They will be allowed to work and access Medicare.
A Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) lasts for 5 years and the person must indicate they are prepared to live in a SHEV designated region and work or study for a period of at least three and a half years with no income support.
Postcodes for these regional areas are on immigration website. SHEV visas are new and therefore untested regarding their success and the implications for the visa holder during and at the end of the visa.
At the end of the 3 or 5 year period, if the person has met all their obligations they will be invited to apply for another temporary visa but there is no guarantee that it will be granted.
Family reunion options are denied for people on TPVs and SHEVs. Sponsorship is not an available option.
How do people on bridging visas apply for a temporary protection visa?
Bridging visa holders have received letters from immigration, inviting them to apply for a temporary protection visa. This is called the “fast track process” and was implemented to deal with the vast numbers of people who were languishing in the detention centres and living in the community on Bridging Visas; approximately 30,000.
It is however not a fast process and people wait for months on end to receive their files from Freedom of Information, to see a lawyer, to be granted an interview and then to be given a decision. All legal support for this process was withdrawn from applicants except for the most vulnerable.
To submit an application each person must complete an extensive questionnaire consisting of over 100 questions. All answers must be written in English. A written statement must accompany the application stating in as much detail as possible all the reasons why the person had to leave their country and why they are seeking protection. The application must also prove with researched evidence why it is unsafe to return to their country of origin.
All supporting documents and ID must be translated into English by a professional translator. All information in the applications must be consistent with information provided during the first interview with immigration upon arriving in Australia. This interview was done when people disembarked from a terrifying boat journey. People were hungry, sick, tired, sunburnt and confused and had little understanding of what was happening.
There are 2 types of temporary visas available; a temporary protection visa (TPV) and a safe haven enterprise visa (SHEV).
The process of applying for a temporary protection visa is complex and time consuming. This is the one and only chance for a person to apply and no additional information can be added once the application is submitted. It is therefore vital that the person has legal advice and support to submit their best application possible.
When English is not your first language, understanding and navigating the way through these applications is terribly complicated. Legal assistance is necessary to ensure applicants understand what is required of them, what documents are needed and what information should be included to verify the information on the applicant’s immigration files.
The 2 legal clinics who worked with people to do their applications are RAILS (Refugee and Immigration Legal Service) through their Unrepresented Asylum Seeker Clinic, and Salvos Asylum Seeker Clinic. Both clinics offered part time services utilising volunteers, research assistants, pro bono lawyers and migration agents. Funding for these services was withdrawn by Federal Government. The cost of engaging a private lawyer or migration agent is around $4000 minimum, which is beyond the means of most people on Bridging Visas who are living way below the poverty line.
Indooroopilly Uniting Church Asylum Seeker Clinic provided assistance to people to fill in the application form, apply for their FOI and translate documents. They continue to assist people with forms to lodge an appeal against their negative decisions. This clinic can only operate with the help of dedicated volunteers.
Last year immigration stipulated that all applications must be received by 1st October. Many people were on long waiting lists to see a lawyer and there was an urgency to complete applications and submit them. The legal clinics in Brisbane met this demand with the help of fundraising campaigns and the vast majority of people received the support of a lawyer to submit their applications on time.
People’s applications are now being processed with a significant number being rejected. Their future is uncertain with all financial support withdrawn. They live in the stressful state of limbo.
Who are the people seeking asylum who arrived by boat?
People who arrived by boat seeking asylum in Australia come from many different countries and came via different routes. The countries represented include, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar, Nepal, Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Sudan, PNG, Tibet and the Rohingyans who are classed as Stateless.
Many had to flee because they were in immediate danger and many came from countries where there is no queue because there is no process available to register with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). There are millions of displaced people seeking refuge in the world and the UNHCR system cannot cope with the increasing volume of people.
The people who came by boat seeking protection are families, single males and females, single parents, older people, and unaccompanied minors under the age of 18. Ages range from 0 to over 46 with the age group of 26 to 35 year olds being the largest.
These people come from a variety of backgrounds and situations. They are professionals, skilled tradespeople, artists, journalists, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, farmers; some have double degrees and doctorates and some have not had the opportunity of any education. They are mothers, fathers, grandparents, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, friends and neighbours.
The people who made the journey to Australia by boat are seeking protection from their experiences of persecution, trauma, torture, abuse, prejudice and discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, political beliefs.
People who arrived by boat were interviewed by immigration on their arrival and placed in immigration detention facilities around Australia for processing. The time spent in these centres increased over time from several months to years when processing was stopped.
On July 19th 2013 it was determined that all people arriving by boat would not be settled in Australia and would be sent to offshore detention centres, Nauru and Manus Island, for processing. There are still hundreds of men women and children in these centres.
For those in mainland detention centres people were gradually released on Bridging Visas which lasted for periods of 3, 6 or 12 months. These visas allowed access to Medicare and 89% of Centrelink. Some had work rights and others didn’t.
Now all the people on Bridging Visas have been invited by the Minister to apply for a temporary protection visa (TPV) or a safe haven enterprise visa (SHEV). It has been stated categorically that no-one who arrived by boat will be given a permanent visa. This is very different for plane arrivals who are given the opportunity to apply for a permanent visa.
It has also been stated categorically that no-one on Nauru and Manus Islands will be allowed to settle in Australia. Some are here for medical reasons but only on a temporary basis. The people in this category are now being issued with a 6 month Final Departure Bridging Visa and are expected to return to Manus or Nauru or go back to their country. They have been cut off from all financial support and case management support.
I heard some people are losing access to SRSS. What will happen to me?
There have been some recent changes to who can get SRSS. This meant that some people could not get on the program or were taken off the program.
If you are on the SRSS program (so you are getting money from Centrelink and have a bridging visa), your caseworker will be talking to you soon about these changes and how they might affect you. Everyone’s situation is different and not everyone is going to lose support, so these changes may not happen to you.
Your caseworker is the best person to talk to because they know your situation and have your documents. If you do not know the name of your caseworker, you can call your service provider and ask them to help you to find the right person. You can find the phone numbers of all service providers here.
I am studying and have SRSS. Will I now lose my support?
We know some people have lost support because they have been studying full-time. We also know that the government will be looking at people who are studying who they think can work in the next few months, and so you may lose support if you are studying.
There are a lot of things we still don’t know yet about this change, and it may not affect you. If you are looking at studying (especially if you are studying full-time), please talk to your caseworker.
I have sent money to family or friends overseas or in Australia. Will I lose my access to SRSS?
It depends on how much money you sent. If you sent money over 12 months that is more than $1,000, then this change will affect you.
We know some people who lost support because they transferred money and then were asked to pay back money to the government. There has been a change so that almost everyone in this situation should now only have to pay back money if the money was transferred after 3 November 2017, and the debt would be any money you got from 3 November 2017.
If you lost support because you transferred money, but you sent less than $1,000, you should get as much information as you can (your bank statements) to show how much money you sent, and take it to your service provider.
My current service provider is Australian Red Cross. I heard their contract is not going to be renewed. What will happen to me?
Nothing is going to change right now. Red Cross will talk with you about the change and how it affects you.
Red Cross intends to work closely with you as they transfer to a new service provider, between now and June 2018. Their main priority is for a smooth transition, so your new caseworker will have all the necessary information about you. You can speak to your Red Cross caseworker if you would like to have more information.