Neil Para wins a visa, but 9999 asylum seekers remain in limbo

September 15, 2023
Neil Para in Western Sydney. Photo: Australian Union for Refugees/Facebook

The news that asylum seeker Neil Para and his family have been granted permanent visas is welcome, but refugee rights organisations say Labor needs to grant permanent visas to 9999 others, who have either been rejected or are still waiting for a decision.

Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition (RAC), said on September 12 on that some have been waiting since August 2012. 

The Refugee Advice and Casework Service said we can't lose sight of the bigger goal of Neil's Walk for Freedom: thousands of people are ineligible to ever apply for permanent protection.

Every person who needs protection should receive not temporary limbo but the certainty of permanent protection, refugee rights organisations say.

The news that Neil and his family had received the visa came at the end of his 1000-kilometre walk from Ballarat to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s electorate in Gadi/Sydney.

After receiving the news, Neil said: “I am glad and grateful. Thank you Australia. Now it really is my home. We promise that we will contribute to Australia. Refugees have a lot to give. One day I hope all will be free.”

Australian Union for Refugees said the walk had ended, but the fight for justice had not. Neil and refugee supporters are determined to continue to push for all those who remain in limbo to have safety and certainty.

Labor recognises the flaws in the former Coalition’s fast-track system, but has done nothing to rectify them nor abolish it, RAC said. Nor has Labor provided a systematic way to review the flawed decisions.

Neil’s walk has highlighted the onerous conditions of his family’s bridging visas and raised awareness about those trying to survive on the inconsistent conditions of bridging visas, RAC said. Many people still do not have work rights, study rights or access to Medicare. Nor do they have basic income support.

Rintoul said that despite many approaches, immigration minister Andrew Giles is “unwilling to fix this glaring injustice”. “Yet, ministerial intervention over the Biloela family and now Neil Para’s family has shown how simply it could be fixed.

“Ten thousand people failed by ‘fast track’ are waiting for justice. Albanese’s election night promise that ‘no one would be left behind by Labor’ is a dim memory.”

Rallies calling for permanent visas for the 10,000 people still in limbo for more than 10 years are being organised in October.

[Check Refugee Action Coalition Facebook pages for details in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.]

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