Aus­tralia’s on­shore refugees re­main stuck in le­gal limbo

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

The Aus­tralian govern­ment has re­jected calls to ex­pe­dite visa ap­pli­ca­tions of 30,000 asy­lum seek­ers who have been stuck in le­gal limbo in the coun­try for more than five years, a report re­leased on Wed­nes­day shows.

The plight of hun­dreds of refugees held in Aus­tralia’s off­shore de­ten­tion cen­ters on Nauru and Pa­pua New Guinea’s Manus Is­land has long been in the global spot­light.

But rights groups and the op­po­si­tion have called on the govern­ment to ad­dress chal­lenges faced by those in Aus­tralia.

In a report re­leased Wed­nes­day, the Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion de­tailed 31 rec­om­men­da­tions it said would im­prove pro­tec­tions for 30,000 refugees who ar­rived in Aus­tralia be­fore the start of 2014, in­clud­ing fast-track­ing their visa ap­pli­ca­tions.

Can­berra has re­jected all of the rec­om­men­da­tions, doc­u­ments re­leased by the Com­mis­sion show.

Known as the “legacy caseload,” the refugees were part of an un­prece­dented wave of asy­lum seek­ers who at­tempted to reach Aus­tralia by boat be­tween 2009 and 2013.

Most of them are able to live among the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and some are able to work, de­pend­ing on their sta­tus.

But the wave of ar­rivals saw the govern­ment in­sti­tute its con­tro­ver­sial off­shore pro­cess­ing pol­icy that saw new boat ar­rivals sent to Nauru and Manus.

The Com­mis­sion said pol­icy changes over time mean the on­shore refugees have still not had their claims as­sessed, so they re­main in­el­i­gi­ble for per­ma­nent res­i­dency sta­tus and have lim­ited ac­cess to sup­port ser­vices.

“Th­ese peo­ple face pro­longed de­lays in as­sess­ing their refugee claims, with lim­ited govern­ment sup­port to meet their health and other needs,” Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sioner Ed­ward San­tow said in a state­ment.

“They risk se­vere de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in their liv­ing con­di­tions and men­tal health, with many at higher risk of sui­cide.”

The Home Af­fairs Depart­ment said in its re­sponse that many of the group do have to ac­cess the same fi­nan­cial, ed­u­ca­tion and health ser­vices avail­able to other Aus­tralians. wang­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

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