Human rights lawyers call on government for fair international travel plan

Human rights lawyers call on government for fair international travel plan

25 October 2021 By Naomi Neilson
fair international travel plan

With international travel planned to return in the next month, human rights lawyers have called on the federal government to provide a “complete and inclusive plan” that takes into account people on temporary visas and refugees planning to resettle.  

The federal government’s announcements to welcome back international travel has largely been met with praise, but the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has pointed out that so far, there has not been a plan to address the situation facing millions of people who are currently still excluded from travel to and from Australia.

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HRLC senior lawyer Scott Cosgriff said that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s plans contain nothing for people who have been given humanitarian visas but then denied permission to actually travel into the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Families belong together. But right now, there are thousands of our friends, neighbours, and colleagues who have been given no idea when they will be able to leave Australia or return, simply because of the kind of visa they hold.

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“People who have lived in Australia for years should not be forced to beg for rare exemptions to avoid missing out on critical moments in their lives,” Mr Cosgriff said.

The Department of Home Affairs annual report revealed the extent of shortfalls in Australia’s refugee intake during the pandemic, including the more than 11,000 refugees who have been granted humanitarian visas but no access to the country.

Refugees who were selected for resettlement in Australia also now only make up 700 out of the more than 40,000 inward exemptions given during 2020-21.

Similarly, people living in Australia and many family members overseas without citizenship or permanent visas “continue to face the ban on entry or re-entry”. People are forced to seek exemptions from the Australian Border Force in a process that HRLC said is “plagued by insufficient transparency around decision-making”.

“With every month, Australia falls further behind on its intake, while the situation facing refugees around the world remains dire. If some level of interruption due to COVID-19 was unavoidable, a permanent deficit in Australia’s refugee intake is not.

“Opportunities to leave and return to Australia could be a moment of hope for everyone who has been separated because of travel restrictions. The Prime Minister now has the chance to ensure no one is left behind,” Mr Cosgriff said.

Human rights lawyers call on government for fair international travel plan
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