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Govt removes temporary protection visa system -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Budget contained some good news for refugees, with the Federal Government
abolishing the previous government's controversial temporary protection visa system.

The decision means that hundreds of refugees whose residency status was previously uncertain will
receive permanent residency.

And they'll be able to apply to bring their families to Australia, as Jane Cowan reports.

JANE COWAN: Burmese refugee, Maung Khin, whose name's been changed to protect his identity, came to
Australia in fear of persecution in his home country. He has been on a temporary protection visa,
but now he'll be granted permanent residency and all the rights that come with it.

MAUNG KHIN: Yeah, I am very happy. I am very glad and happy because when I got a temporary
protection visa and I was very happy.

But at the same time because I am worried about my wife so I cannot travel out of the country, and
I can not sponsor her, my wife, my family. So now I am very happy to hear about that.

JANE COWAN: What difference will it make to you?

MAUNG KHIN: Because here, I will much feel better and have, and live this fully here in Australia.
And now I can sponsor my wife, because I left my wife back in Burma.

JANE COWAN: Refugee lawyer David Mann from the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre is delighted by
what he says is a commonsense and humane decision to abolish a fundamentally flawed, unjust and
dehumanising policy.

DAVID MANN: The policy itself re-traumatised thousands of recognised refugees, people fleeing from
places like Iraq, from Afghanistan, Iran.

And these genuine refugees were left in a twilight world, in limbo, in Australia, not knowing what
the future would hold.

And they were discriminated against and denied basic rights such as the freedom to actually travel
in and out of Australia to visit loved ones.

And really worst of all, they were banned from family reunion, from reuniting, sponsoring and
reuniting with wives, husbands, children and parents.

JANE COWAN: The ability to apply to bring family members to Australia means the change stands to
benefit many more than the 1,000 people currently on temporary protection visas.

DAVID MANN: In doing that, will of course, ensure that there is an ability for those genuine
refugees who have been banned from actually reuniting with their families and rebuilding their life
with dignity in a full and meaningful way.

JANE COWAN: But the Opposition says the policy sends the wrong message, telling people smugglers
Australia's borders are open for business. Lawyer, David Mann, says that argument never held water.

DAVID MANN: Well, that proposition is not supported at all by the evidence, so the fundamental
problem with that proposition is that it has no basis whatsoever in evidence or fact. There was no
linkage between deterring people from coming and creating a TPV.

In fact, the opposite was the case. As soon as the temporary protection visa was created, more
people starting coming to Australia seeking refugee status.

JANE COWAN: David Mann says though, the changes don't go far enough.

While the worst effects of the temporary protection visas will be now be removed, with refugees
able to sponsor family members to come to Australia, the Budget failed to set aside money for even
one extra place in the family reunion scheme this financial year.

DAVID MANN: And this means, essentially the Government have failed to guarantee, thus far timely
family reunion for thousands of people.

And on current estimates, it is likely to be at least a decade after their arrival in Australia as
genuine refugees before many of the people that we are talking about will be able to reunite with
close family.

When we're hearing from the Government about working families, but these could well end up being
forgotten families if something is not done about it.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's refugee lawyer David Mann, ending Jane Cowan's report.