Almost immediately after gaining power the Albanese Labor Government allowed the long suffering Nadasalingam family to return to the Queensland town of Biloela, and they were welcomed back with open arms. Their return to Biloela is at this stage merely temporary as the government decides if their refugee claim is upheld. The family was taken from the town by the Morrison Government and put into detention spending four years in various locations on and offshore. The family has two girls, both Australian born.
Now the family lives with a bridging visa which will remain in place until this government decides what it will do with the family, and in fact what it will do with immigration policies in general. The idea put forward by the government was to grant permanent rather than temporary visas to people whose asylum claims are found to be genuine which could allow about 19,000 people to really call Australian home.
The Refugee Council of Australia has called for the government to honour its pledge to abolish temporary protection in favour of permanent residency.
“We also look forward to your government implementing the Labor Party’s platform to expand the Refugee and Humanitarian Program progressively to 27,000 places per year and build a community sponsorship program of 5,000 places,” Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia said in a statement.
“The recent cuts to the Humanitarian Program and the failure to restore 13,400 visas not issued over the previous two financial years have come at a time when resettlement as a solution for refugees is more needed than ever before.” Mr Power said that the work in refugee resettlement must be backed up by much more effective engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond in efforts to improve the protection of refugees in countries where they first seek protection.
He said that the need now is even more pressing to support the work of UNHCR and to engage governments in the region on achievable and incremental steps to enable refugees to live, work and study legally. These basic protection options are essential to providing alternatives to refugees otherwise forced to seek safety through risky and irregular journeys.
The Refugee Council of Australia also wants the government to pay attention to the lengthy delays in the onshore protection process saying that the whole immigration detention system also needs urgent review. Since Labor was last in office, the average time spent in detention has blown out, from less than 100 days in mid-2013 to 687 days as at January 2022.
The citizens of Biloela have worked tirelessly to have Nadasalingam family back into their community and have the opportunity to one day be given Australian citizenship. Also tireless was the family's representative Carina Ford, an outstanding immigration specialist who has acted pro-bono for the family throughout many years. The work the keep this family in Australia is not over, however, allowing them to return to Biloela is certainly a step in the right direction.