At the start of the year, over 100 refugees were released into the community from immigration detention hotels in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Darwin. The refugees were released on final departure bridging visas, called the Bridging Visa E (BVE) subclass 050. The options for this visa subclass are to plan to leave, finalise their immigration matter, or wait for an immigration decision.
Since the US settlement plan is no longer an option, there is no agreement with PNG or Nauru to take these refugees back, there is no third country option, and by international non-refoulement law, these refugees should not be sent back to danger. Hence, the fate of these refugees remains unknown.
For these refugees released from detention, their visas will expire after six months of being granted. This visa subclass does not allow for an application for another BVE, and they are not eligible to apply for other visas, such as a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV).
These refugees are running out of time, and though refoulement is illegal under international law, removal remains the option for the government. When the refugee’s BVEs expire, they will be non-citizens, not holding a valid visa, unlawful, and ‘therefore subject to detention and removal.’
Ministerial Intervention or lodging an appeal with The Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal may be the only hope these refugees have.
‘We are extremely concerned about the future of the refugees released from detention earlier this year,’ says Refugee Voices CEO Ahmad Hakim.
‘These people have wasted eight years of their lives locked up in detention because of the Australian government, and even though they have been released from their torturous conditions, they now enter another kind of living hell as their visas expire.
‘What will these people do? What can they do? They sought safety in a country that they believed would support their fight to live free of persecution, as a democratic society should do. Still, they continue to be controlled and manipulated by the policies and systems of the government.’
For interviews, please contact Refugee Voices CEO Ahmad Hakim on 0457 449 222.
Subclass 050 and 051, Bridging visa E (BVE), Australian Government Department of Home Affairs.
Migration Regulations 1994, Statutory Rules No. 268, 1994, made under the Migration Act 1958, ss 189, 198.