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Refugee delegation visits Canberra to end decade of uncertainty

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Voices are being raised against Australia's deplorable treatment of refugees (Screenshot via YouTube)

Young refugees failed by the flawed Fast Track system urged political leaders in Canberra this week to finally let them call Australia home after living here for over ten years in visa limbo.

The delegation of eight Tamil, Iranian and Rohingya refugees, aged 17 to 27, addressed MPs from Labor, Greens and Independents at a series of briefings in Parliament House on Tuesday, calling for a fair and fast pathway to permanency for hundreds of young people and the 9,000 refugees who continue to be overlooked by the Albanese Government.

MPs heard from the youth delegation how inconsistent and arbitrary temporary visa conditions are now causing significant barriers to their future, with many young people who arrived here as children now unable to access work or study rights.

In constant fear of deportation and without a permanent visa, many will not be able to fulfil hopes of attending university, starting a small business or building their lives with the friends and communities they’ve grown up with.

Since the Fast Track process to assess protection claims was introduced by the Abbott Government in 2014, the Australian Labor Party has publicly acknowledged it as deeply flawed and unfair. However, new legislation proposed by the Albanese Government, which will abolish Fast Track and see a new review tribunal established, still fails to provide a pathway to permanency for the thousands who have already suffered hardship and injustice from a system plagued with delays and inconsistencies.

This follows Labor’s announcement in February 2023, which allowed approximately 19,000 people to apply for a permanent visa who had been granted Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) or Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV) under the Fast Track process. The decision excluded approximately 9,000 people who had their protection visa applications refused under Fast Track in the past decade or who are still waiting for a final decision.

The youth delegation to Canberra also marked the end of the virtual Big Walk 4 Refugees — six weeks of walking with 700 people walking 70,000 kilometres in their local towns and communities to show solidarity with the 9,000 people seeking asylum still waiting for permanency in Australia.

Abi Selvakumar, age 18:

I came to Australia in 2013 at the tender age of seven, alongside my single mother. Yet, despite the challenges we face, I hold onto my hopes and aspirations for a better life in Australia.


With a permanent visa, I envision a future where I can pursue my dreams without the constant fear of deportation looming over me. My wish is for reforms that spare other young individuals the struggles I face today.

Alex, age 20:

I have lived in Australia for ten years. Since completing year 12, I have completed a Diploma in Construction. I want to go on to do a degree in Construction Project Management. My teachers were keen to organise a scholarship for me. However, I can’t do this now, as I got a letter from Home Affairs in December last year to say my visa has changed and I no longer have study rights.


My younger brother is doing Year 12 this year. He wants to study sports science, but now he does not have study rights, he won’t be able to enrol in University. So now he’s starting to lose interest in school.

Betia Shakiba, age 26:

“Being a refugee means having to fight against political agendas, restricted access to our basic rights, social stigma and media misrepresentation, often enduring derogatory language. Nevertheless, we maintain a strong desire to contribute positively to the Australian community because we believe our home is here and we are committed to shaping a brighter future for this country.”

Sandy Watson, refugee advocate and organiser of Big Walk 4 Refugees:

“Last year, 39 refugees walked and cycled thousands of kilometres across Australia to highlight the barriers facing refugees living in our communities. This year, Australians joined them in solidarity — walking 70,000 kilometres to call for permanency for these refugees who are our friends, neighbours, colleagues, family. It is time to close this chapter of uncertainty and instead benefit from their remarkable spirit and skills.”

Jana Favero, Director of Systemic Change at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC):

The Labor party is on the precipice of abolishing the Fast Track system and the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA). Despite publicly decrying Fast Track and the IAA for its unfairness since it was established, Labor still won’t give the 9,000 people who’ve suffered a life in limbo as a result of the system’s failings the certainty they deserve to get on with their lives.


After living here for over a decade, these young people and the 9,000 they represent are part of our communities and this is their home. They deserve an urgent pathway to permanency.

Jane Salmon is a refugee advocate whose family has benefitted greatly from the NDIS. You can follow her on Twitter @jsalmonupstream.

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