Refugee freedom walker Neil Para and the coalition of refugee groups supporting him welcome the increase in the humanitarian intake announced yesterday by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles.
Advocates remind decision-makers that there are thousands of refugee and asylum seekers already here urgently needing permanent visas.
There are refugees who have lived here for more than a decade in limbo without permanent visas, access to jobs, study or Medicare and are already contributing to and part of the Australian community.
The coalition supporting Neil Para includes Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), People Just Like Us (PJLU) and Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) and more.
Ian Rintoul from RAC said the additional 2125 are expected to come from overseas.
“We welcome any increase in the humanitarian intake; though we are mindful that there are around 10,000 refugees already in Australia who are victims of the Morrison fast track system that urgently need permanent visas,” he said.
Neil Para formed the Union of Australian Refugees this year to help give refugees a voice and is one-third of the way through a 1000km refugee freedom walk to Prime Minister Albanese’s electorate office in Sydney to raise awareness of their plight especially those with no visas or visas that don’t give them certainty for their future.
Commenting on Mr Giles’ announcement Mr Para said: “That is why we formed the Union; we are a voice for refugees who are already in Australia. We welcome the minister’s announcement but we want the minister to please end the uncertainty for those who are already here.
“Mr Albanese said yesterday that Australia can do its share as part of being a responsible nation that has always been generous.
“We call on Mr Albanese and Mr Giles to live up to that and in the good Aussie tradition of a fair go, please give embrace refugees who have lived here for over a decade and are already part of Australia and wish to contribute more.”
Neil, a Sri Lankan refugee from Ballarat has lived here for 11 years in uncertainty with his wife and three daughters without a permanent visa, is not permitted a job or continuous Medicare. His daughters’ access to tertiary study is affected too.
He will present a petition to Mr Albanese’s office (which has already attracted more than 16,000 signatures) urging permanent visas for the group who were ignored when Mr Giles announced in February that certain refugees could apply for permanent residency.
Chair of Ballarat RAR, Margaret O’Donnell said Australia had room enough for both groups. “Refugees in Shepparton who met Neil this week, just for example, play a vital role in the local economy as orchardists and cannery workers.”
“We applaud the federal government decision to build a kinder country and every increase is a step towards a more inclusive, compassionate and culturally rich Australia,” Mrs O’Donnell said.
It makes sense to start by processing those already here. People like Neil are already contributing and poised to do more.
“Becoming a permanent citizen could offer many refugees precious family reunion opportunities, work rights, more affordable tertiary study options for their children and Medicare access. Those building this nation also aspire to vote.
“Not many Aussies are crazy about contributing tax but for refugees the ability to pay tax represents an important milestone. There are thousands on temporary visas who hope to take the next step.”
RAR members have been supporting Neil along the way and everywhere he goes, people are empathetic to the cause.
Convoys of refugees have travelled from Melbourne to share their frustrations. At a meeting in Shepparton this week refugees who met with Neil told their stories of heartbreak and uncertainty.
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