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MEDIA RELEASE: Government proposal denies refugee status in exchange for workforce opportunities

Updated: Oct 20, 2020

When it comes to supporting asylum seekers to access important job opportunities in Australia, people’s refugee visa status must never be on the table as an item for exchange, says Refugee Voices CEO Ahmad Hakim.

Following community consultation with over 68 people from refugee backgrounds across Victoria, Mr Hakim said that Morrison Government’s proposal to enable asylum seekers in Australia on Temporary Protection Visas with access to fruit picking jobs requires significant modification.

“There is no doubt, this proposed scheme by the Government holds incredible opportunity for people seeking asylum in Australia, and indeed their families.

“We have 17,000 people in our community who have sought safety in Australia, but due to their visa limitations have been denied the opportunity to access the workforce and help provide for their family.

“While enabling this community to take-up much needed workforce opportunities is vital to their welfare and wellbeing, this mustn’t be in exchange for their refugee-related visa that acknowledges the humanitarian grounds in which they seek safety in Australia.

“Speaking with the community, it is very clear that while there is great enthusiasm to contribute to much needed Fruit Picking Australia, the community remains highly concerned that by accepting this shift it leaves people at risk of possible deportation.

“The current Government proposal will exchange a personal humanitarian visa to a working visa that doesn’t acknowledge the humanitarian and safety needs of this community in Australia.

“This might be an obvious solution for the Government for current workforce shortages and significant loss of welfare supports for this community, however, it puts people seeking asylum in a tenuous position.

Mr Hakim said this was exactly why the Government needs to improve consultation with the affected communities before further policy solutions like this.

“The other key consideration is ensuring that access to jobs and employment should be granted to all people in Australia right now, not just those on Temporary Protection Visas and SHEVs.

“Thousands of people in Australia who have come here on humanitarian grounds are also currently on Bridging Visas. These people also need access to the workforce, much of which has been left behind by backpackers who have had the opportunity to return to their country of origin.

“Regardless of the refugee-related visas, these people are unable to return to their country of origin, require safety in Australia, and overwhelmingly wish to contribute to the community with these jobs that Australia needs to be filled.

“Let’s further this important policy proposal and ensure it does so without denying people the humanitarian grounds in which they arrived.”

Media contact Ahmad Hakim Available for comment and interview.

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