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Church welcomes Govt change of heart on protection visas

Bishop Joseph Grech described the Federal Government's decision to allow 9500 people on Temporary Protection Visas to apply for permanent visas as an important and compassionate change of policy.

Bishop Grech (pictured), Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Migrants and Refugees, said the move would end the uncertainty for those people who had been found to be in need of Australia's protection.

The relaxation of mainstream migration visas, announced yesterday by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone, is expected to assist the refugees to remain in Australia.

"These people came to Australia, often via treacherous sea journeys, and when their claims for asylum were processed they were found to be genuine refugees," Bishop Grech said. "The government's policy of only granting them temporary visas, despite their refugee status, meant they were living with the fear of being sent back to the situation from which they had fled."

He said the boat people also endure the hardship of being denied the same entitlements granted to other refugees, often forcing them to rely on the help of Church and community groups to survive.

"However, even in the face of such difficult circumstances, many people on Temporary Protection Visas have contributed a great deal to the Australian community."

Bishop Grech said this was especially so in regional centres, where TPV holders had injected much-needed life to local economies and the well-being of communities by taking up jobs in the professions, trades and in seasonal labour.

"Granting permanent residence to all refugees, regardless of how they arrived, means these people can rebuild their lives and their confidence as full and equal members of the Australian community," he said. "We warmly welcome this change of heart from the government."

Meanwhile Uniting Church National President, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said the decision is a first step in re-creating public confidence in Australia's immigration system.

"The Uniting Church has always been concerned about the effects of temporary protection on refugees," he said. "It's not right to provide a safe haven for people and then, after they have established a life and a sense of belonging in Australia, insist they go home."

Catholic Church welcomes change of heart on protection visas (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 13/7/04)
New Hope For Refugees (Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly 13/7/04)

New Measures for Temporary Protection & Temporary Humanitarian Visa Holders (Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs 13/7/04)
Vanstone misses the boat on announcement (Justice for Asylum Seekers Network 13/7/04)
Softening of visa rules for refugees (The Australian 14/7/04)
Vanstone shift gives refugees a chance (The Age 14/7/04)
Refugees lured to country jobs (Sydney Morning Herald 14/7/04)
Fenced in by visa doubts, refugee fears an uncertain future (Sydney Morning Herald 14/7/04)
Government announces changes to temporary protection visas (ABC TV 7:30 Report 13/7/04)
Kobia issues two challenges to Australian Christians (World Council of Churches 12/7/04)
Fr Frank Brennan SJ: The Traumas of Atonement and Opposition in the Law (Law & Literature Association of Australia - Conference 2004 Closing Plenary, Queensland University of Technology Queensland University of Technology/Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre 11/7/04)
Bishop welcomes new law on gangmasters (Independent Catholic News 13/7/04)
Bishops Committee For Migrants And Refugees
Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office
World Council of Churches head shocked by Baxter detention centre (CathNews 9/7/04)
SA priest travels to Canberra to plead TPV holders' case (CathNews 25/11/03)
Bishop Grech welcomes new Govt policy on Iranian asylum seekers (CathNews 19/2/04)
Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care
Otherway Centre
Michelle Grattan: Fighting to let refugees stay (The Age 12/11/03)

14 Jul 2004