The Federal Government has officially re-introduced the Howard-era temporary protection visas (TPV).
Under the Migration Act, the visa gives refugees protection for up to three years and prevents the visa holder from applying for permanent protection.
Reintroducing TPVs was one of the Coalition’s key election promises.
In August, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced plans to deal with the backlog of nearly 32,000 people already in Australia on bridging visas in detention centres.
He said the Coalition would introduce a rapid audit of their claims, by which a single immigration case worker would decide the refugee status of people who had arrived in Australia by boat.
Those found to be refugees would be given TPVs, with no prospect of permanent settlement – including for family reunions.
Those judged to have no refugee claim would be deported or detained, and stripped of appeal rights.
TPVs to undermine human rights, asylum advocates say
TPVs were a feature of the Howard government’s asylum policy in 1999 and Mr Abbott referenced the former prime minister’s own words during his announcement of the policy in August.
In an election policy speech in 2001, Mr Howard famously stated: «We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.»
The Rudd Labor government abolished TPVs in 2008.
Amnesty International spokesman Graeme McGregor says the re-introduction of TPVs will undermine human rights protections for asylum seekers.
«Once again, we have favoured punishment over protection of genuine refugees by choosing to repackage failed policies of the past,» he said.
«The use of TPVs during the first Pacific Solution was shown to have severe mental health consequences on recognised refugees, who in many cases have fled terror and torture as a result of the insecurity around employment, residence and family reunion.»