Migrant reps meet minister on visa changes

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On 27 June, representatives from the Indian, Hazara, Iranian communities as well as staff from the Community Migrant Resource Centre met with Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Shayne Neumann and Federal MP for Parramatta, Assistant Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia Julie Owens, to voice their concerns regarding the proposed changes to citizenship, parent visas, 457 visas and proposed Temporary Protection Visa deadline for maritime arrival asylum seekers.

While welcoming the New Temporary Sponsored Parent Visa category which will facilitate bringing parents to Australia, concern was raised about the very high cost of visa application—$10,000 for five-year visa and $5,000 for three-year visa—particularly as it was an expense rather than a bond as per other parent visa categories. This would put this opportunity out of reach of many, said community representatives.

With regard to the Temporary Protection Visa deadline of 1 October 2017, concerns were raised about the high cost of legal assistance that asylum seekers had to incur to lodge the documents. Many did not have the financial resources to engage private lawyers and hence are likely to miss the deadline.

In addition, the restriction of only one set of parents who can be sponsored at a given time was found to be unacceptable as it would require migrants to choose between parents. It was suggested that parents who come on temporary visas and bridging visas should be able to avail senior travel discounts as offered in many overseas countries to visitors over 60 years of age.

Concerns over the high level of English language testing were raised. Community representatives felt that too much emphasis was being put on English language proficiency rather than on the individual skills and contribution potential. Current IELTS tests were already onerous and it was felt that the higher requirements may put the dream of becoming an Australian citizen out of reach of many resulting in a feeling of exclusion rather than inclusion.

With regard to changes to 457 visas, while greater audit and enforcement of rules for 457 visas was desirable, arbitrary cancellation of categories has created a lot of uncertainty for those who are already in the country on 457 visas and is discouraging future applicants which is resulting in skills shortage in some business sectors.

With regard to the Temporary Protection Visa deadline of 1 October 2017, concerns were raised about the high cost of legal assistance that asylum seekers had to incur to lodge the documents. Many did not have the financial resources to engage private lawyers and hence are likely to miss the deadline. This has resulted in a lot of mental health issues within the community with four to five cases of suicide reported within the Hazara community.

The plight of women on temporary spouse visas who were victims of domestic violence was also raised. This group of women was not entitled to any government financial support resulting in them continuing to stay within the violent relationship. It was suggested that strict action should be taken against the perpetrators who should be required to continue to provide financial support as per their commitment in the initial sponsorship application until such time as permanent residence applications of those affected are determined.

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