Senate inquiry to fix ‘broken’ family migration system

By Naomi Neilson|24 February 2021
family migration system

A Senate inquiry into Australia’s family migration program is an opportunity to reform a “broken system that has been failing families for years”, human rights lawyers said. 

A wide-ranging inquiry introduced by the Labor and Greens parties will examine the efficacy and fairness of the family visa system and is expected to highlight systemic problems, including massive delays associated with the visas, the exorbitant costs and discriminatory policies disadvantaging people from refugee backgrounds. 

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has welcomed the inquiry and an end to the “intentionally cruel policies and misadministration” created by the federal government that have caused these families “immense, needless suffering” that includes keeping children from their parents and keeping people separated from their partners. 

Legal director David Burke said that these families belong together and that reuniting people with their loved ones “should be at the heart of our migration policies”.


“This inquiry will lay bare the many ways the government is currently failing families. The Morrison government can and must do more to allow families to be together,” he said. 

HRLC said that people who have sought to reunite with loved ones recently were left in limbo by a growing backlog of visa applications. At the end of the last financial year, there were more than 200,000 people waiting for a family visa. 

It added that some types of visas for parents and other relatives have an expected waiting time of more than 30 years. The only way to avoid the exorbitant waiting time is to apply for a different type of parent visa, which costs almost $500,000. 

“It shouldn’t take years of waiting and thousands of dollars for people to be able to be with their loved ones. For many families, exorbitant visa fees mean that a life together is simply out of reach. The right to be together as a family should never be determined by wealth,” Mr Burke said of the issues surrounding the visa. 

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic recovery is an opportunity to bring in the reforms and that the Morrison government should press ahead now.


“The Morrison government has a choice. It can return to a system that punishes and deprioritises refugee families and forces families of all backgrounds to endure the extraordinary costs and waiting times to be together. Or it could instead recognise the importance of family and urgently prioritise uniting people who are separated,” he said.

“A fairer family migration system can play a crucial role in our recovery as Australia begins to reconnect with the rest of the world.”

Senate inquiry to fix ‘broken’ family migration system
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