Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Temporary Protection Visas are

designed to give people in need of a safe place as a temporary shelter. They can be likened to offering strangers shelter in your home during a violent thunderstorm.  When the storm has ended you expect that they will leave and return home or continue on their journey elsewhere. What you do not expect is that you will be asked to shelter them for an extended period at your own expense while they do little or nothing to help you or the situation in which they find themselves. Nor do you expect to find that they will demand to stay permanantly in your home or that they are actually criminals avoiding prosecution, that they were not avoiding the violent storm but were avoiding justice.
Years ago I was involved in helping a family who had fled from a country in what is usually termed "the Middle East". They arrived in Australia with no more than their clothes and their identity documents. Their passports, birth certificates and other documentation were all there. They asked, not for refugee status (which they would have been granted) but temporary protection. They said they hoped to go home one day.  The father had raw wounds on his back and elsewhere. He had been beaten for stopping to help someone in need - and not for the first time. There were other old scars on his back and elsewhere.  An airport official had helped to get them out of the country - at risk to his own safety.
They have long since moved. I do not know where they have gone and it is better not to know. The situation in their home country is still not safe although it has greatly improved. It would not surprise me to learn they have returned to try and help. Their attitude was that their country needed their skills, that if everyone with those skills left then the place would be worse still and more people would want to leave.
They paid the normal airfares. They arrived in the normal way. Immigration officials could immediately see who they were. They asked for, and were granted, temporary protection. Within a week they were housed in a tiny unit and using their time to, among other things, improve their English.
We discussed this at some length while they were here. They were intelligent, professional people and taught me a good deal. They taught me that, as I had always been told, people will protect the documents that prove their identity if they possibly can. They taught me that it is possible to enter a country legally and seek temporary asylum - and that asylum will quickly be granted if the evidence is there.
Our current Australian government did away with Temporary Protection Visas. It was part of their deal with the Greens who see no need for such things. The family I knew would not have been able to seek the temporary protection they wanted. The situation would have been infinitely more complex than that. 
The Greens argue that Temporary Protection Visas just increase the uncertainty faced by the people who come here. I disagree. It is all some people want.  Many refugees still hope to go home one day and we may be making it more difficult for them to do that.

5 comments:

Miriam said...

That's interesting. Do other countries grant Temporary Protection Visas?

Anonymous said...

There are similar mechanisms in a number of countries. As Cat points out it is a very sensible way of dealing with some people. It is all they want and they really do hope they will be able to go home at some point. Chris

the fly in the web said...

Friends in Germany refer to the Greens as the Green Terrorists for the inflexibility of their ideas which they are able to impose by forming the minority part of coalition governments at national and lander level.

virtualquilter said...

Well said, Cat.

catdownunder said...

Hope Chris has answered your question Miriam. It just seems such a sensible approach to provide protection while needed. Fly in the Web I think our lot took their cue from the German Greens.
Thankyou Judy - do wonder how our PM can live with herself!