20 March 2012

One Australian visa system to cover all asylum claims

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Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has confirmed that, from Saturday, all asylum seekers arriving in the country will have their claims for an Australian visa processed in the same way, regardless of how they arrive.

Australia visa

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the new measures will come into effect on Saturday 24, March.

Mr Bowen confirmed that the governing Labor party would restore the single Australian visa system which would allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to have their claims for a protection visa to be brought before the Refugee Review Tribunal instead of the current Independent Merits Review.

Since the John Howard-era, asylum seekers' claims for a protection visa were processed differently depending on whether they arrived via boat or plane.

"The current onshore arrangements for application and independent review through the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) system will now apply to all people seeking asylum in Australia, regardless of their mode of arrival, from 24, March," said Mr Bowen.

"This means the protection obligations assessment process for irregular maritime arrivals will be consistent with that of onshore protection visa applicants."

Mr Bowen said the failure of the government's proposed people swap deal with Malaysia, known as the Malaysia Solution, to get through the High Court combined with a deadlocked debate with the opposition to broker a compromise to the growing Australian immigration issue made the Howard-era parallel process redundant.

"The Malaysia Arrangement presented a genuinely innovative regional response to the people smuggling problem, but the High Court's decision and Tony Abbott's negativity in blocking offshore processing prevent the government from pursuing this option.

"It is therefore only prudent to introduce this new single, consistent and efficient process."

The opposition has already criticised the new policy, claiming the Howard policy ensured safeguards and the government is committed to removing "every remaining brick in the border protection wall inherited from John Howard".

"The result has been chaos on our borders, cost blowouts for taxpayers, riots in our detention centres and, sadly, tragedy at sea yet the government still seeks to congratulate itself every time they remove another brick in John Howard's wall," said opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison.

Refugee advocates have welcomed the new process, claiming it provides an unbiased system for asylum seekers to make their claims for refugee status.

"It can only improve the quality of decision-making by ending the discriminatory scheme based on how and where people arrived in Australia," said refugee lawyer David Manne.

Mr Bowen confirmed asylum seekers arriving from Saturday will have their claims processed under the new system.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their applications with the Australian Embassy London.

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