Government must immediately clarify whether lifetime visa ban would apply to 320 people already in our community

The Human Rights Law Centre has called on the Turnbull Government to urgently clarify whether or not its proposed ‘lifetime ban’ will apply to over 320 men, women and children who are already in the community after being brought back to Australia from Manus and Nauru, many of whom the HRLC represents.

On ABC’s Q and A last night, Federal Minister Sussan Ley seemed unaware that the proposed legal changes could affect the group, yet this morning Foreign Minister Julie Bishop suggested they would.

The Human Rights Law Centre represents most of the group, which includes over 40 babies born in Australia and over 60 children and their families. HRLC Director of Legal Advocacy Daniel Webb said that his clients were in ‘community detention’, which means they are able to live in the community but are not on formal bridging visas. The Migration Act already prevents them from applying for visas to stay in Australia unless the Immigration Minister grants them permission.

“There is already a clear legal bar in place which prevents this group from applying for visas. After so long in our communities and after all of the public support for letting them stay, these families were hopeful that the Minister would soon do the sensible thing and lift the bar. But now all this talk of lifetime bans is terrifying them.”

“There are kids in our classrooms right now who on Sunday woke up to Malcolm Turnbull threatening lifetime bans. They will be confused and afraid. What do they say to their friends at school this week?” said Mr Webb

“The Government has to make clear whether it is going to rip these people from our communities and send them back to harm, or do the decent and sensible thing and let them stay.”

Mr Webb said the proposed changes would also entrench the limbo for those on Nauru and Manus and permanently separate families.

“I was on Manus recently and met one man, Nayser Ahmed, who arrived here on a different date to his wife and kids.While his family are now rebuilding their lives in Sydney, Nayser has been stuck on Manus for the last three years. If Turnbull’s legal changes go ahead, this man will never be able to join his kids here in Australia,” said Mr Webb.

“Nayser just wants what every father in the world wants – to sit down at the end of the day and enjoy a meal with his kids. Whatever the policy challenge, ripping apart families isn’t the solution,” said Mr Webb.

“It’s clear Nauru and Manus are dead ends. The government urgently needs to find a humane way forward. After three years of fear, violence and limbo, the government must bring the innocent people on Nauru and Manus to safety in Australia and allow those already in our communities to stay and continue rebuilding their lives.”

For further comments or queries please contact:

Daniel Webb, Director of Legal Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre, 0437 278 961

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519