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Monday, 23 May 2005
Page: 164


Ms Hoare asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, in writing, on 14 February 2005:

(1)   How many asylum seekers from tsunami affected countries are (a) being held in detention; and (b) on temporary protection visas (TPVs).

(2)   Will the Government urgently review the applications for permanent protection for those asylum seekers from tsunami affected countries.

(3)   Has the Minister’s department been approached by any asylum seekers from tsunami affected countries requesting assistance relating to the welfare of their families in tsunami affected areas; if so, (a) how many; and (b) is the Minister able to assist those families; if so, how.


Mr McGauran (Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs) —The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:

(1)  

(a)   Departmental systems indicate that, as at 11 February 2005, there was one protection visa applicant from a tsunami affected country who was in detention.  This person’s application was recently remitted to the Department by the Refugee Review Tribunal.  Further checks are being undertaken in order to decide the visa application.

(b)   Departmental systems indicate that as at 11 February 2005, there were some 90 remaining temporary protection visa holders from tsunami affected countries.

(2)   Applications for further protection visas lodged by temporary protection visa holders from tsunami affected countries are being assessed on their merits under the normal arrangements for determining applications for further protection visas.  To be eligible for grant of a further protection visa, an applicant must either be found to be owed protection obligations under the Refugees Convention or be accompanying a family member who has been found to be owed such protection obligations.  The tsunami and the damage and disruption it has caused do not meet the grounds set out in the Refugees Convention for identifying persons owed refugee protection.  However, where the Refugee Review Tribunal affirms a decision to refuse a further protection visa, the Minister has a non-compellable personal power to substitute for the Tribunal decision a decision which is more favourable to the applicant, where the Minister considers this to be in the public interest. (3)   (a)   An emergency Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) hotline commenced operating from 30 December 2004 to provide advice on visa arrangements for Australian citizens and residents with relatives in tsunami-affected areas and foreign nationals from affected areas temporarily in Australia.                  As at 9 February 2005, some 900 calls had been received by DIMIA from persons seeking advice on visa arrangements for Australian citizens and residents with relatives in tsunami-affected areas and foreign nationals from affected areas temporarily in Australia.                 The hotline was discontinued on 18 February 2005 due to the diminishing number of calls.  DIMIA’s website has been upgraded to provide a link to information related to tsunami affected countries.

(3)  

(a)   An emergency Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) hotline commenced operating from 30 December 2004 to provide advice on visa arrangements for Australian citizens and residents with relatives in tsunami-affected areas and foreign nationals from affected areas temporarily in Australia.                  As at 9 February 2005, some 900 calls had been received by DIMIA from persons seeking advice on visa arrangements for Australian citizens and residents with relatives in tsunami-affected areas and foreign nationals from affected areas temporarily in Australia.                 The hotline was discontinued on 18 February 2005 due to the diminishing number of calls.  DIMIA’s website has been upgraded to provide a link to information related to tsunami affected countries.

(b)   My Department is maintaining communication with relevant migrant communities in Australia, including monitoring the needs of those whose relatives are missing or have been killed or injured.                         Concerns by immigration detainees about the welfare of family members in affected areas have been addressed by providing access to overseas phones calls and through tracing assistance from the Australian Red Cross.  It is not possible to identify the extent to which the calls were from asylum seekers from tsunami affected countries requesting assistance relating to the welfare of their families in tsunami affected areas.