In this report, the Committee has recommended (Recommendation 25):
… restoring the alignment that used to exist between the temporary skilled and permanent skilled programme to ensure that where appropriate, migrants have pathways to permanency and citizenship.
As with the report, this recommendation is supported, but the Australian Greens have concerns that, if implemented only for skilled migrants, it would further entrench classes of 'haves' and 'have nots' within Australia's immigration program.
Temporary migration to Australia has grown exponentially since the 1980s. Until the 1990s, Australia’s immigration program was a settlement-based system, with permanent visas granted to new migrants on arrival.
When the Government implemented inbound travel restrictions for temporary visa holders in March 2020, as part of its COVID-19 human biosecurity emergency measures, there were 2.17 million temporary visa holders in Australia (including around 672,000 New Zealand citizens on Special Category visas).
Temporary protection visas replaced permanent protection visas for some humanitarian entrants in 1999. Many people have therefore since been subject to continuously applying to move from one temporary visa to another, with the resultant lack of certainty for their futures.
This uncertainty has been further exacerbated by the Migration Amendment (Clarifying International Obligations for Removal) Act 2021, and its provision of a new power for the Minister to reconsider and revoke a person’s refugee status, and therefore whether they are owed protection or not.
Up until 1996, family reunion visas made up around two-thirds of Australia’s permanent migration program. Since then the ratio of Australia’s permanent migration program has shifted to two-thirds skilled and one-third family.
The reduction in places in the family visa program has contributed to families being kept apart, with resultant trauma and harm. Australia’s family visa program should be made fairer, faster and more affordable, and should provide permanency to migrants within that program.
The Australian Greens support people who come to Australia under the humanitarian and family reunion visa programs being provided with a pathway to permanent residency and ultimately citizenship.
That migrants who come to Australia with family visas, and with refugee and humanitarian visas, be provided with pathways to permanency and citizenship, and that these pathways begin with permanent residency upon entry to Australia.
Senator Nick McKim
Greens Senator for Tasmania