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.