Petition Concerning Long Delays in Processing Family Visa Applications

Monica O’Wheel, Chair of Circle of Friends Australia Inc. (COFA), and other members of the COFA Management Committee, have received an invitation to sign an important petition to the Commonwealth House of Representatives concerning the administrative mistreatment of permanent residents who are former asylum seekers, and their families.

Asylum seekers who have been granted permanent residence visas can sponsor spouse and dependent children to join them in Australia on a family visa. But a Ministerial Direction under the Migration Act 1958 states that the order of processing of such applications puts applications from former asylum seekers last, behind all other permanent residents and citizens. The result is that family members who are in foreign countries and will already have suffered separation for years, must therefore wait a further 8 years or more for an outcome.

So a child who has been separated from one or both parents would suffer separation during the crucial growing up years when parental guidance is so vital. Such children, on reaching Australia, will often never have seen one or both parents, or will not recognise them.

As these are family members of asylum seekers who gained refugee status, they will in many cases be living in conditions that are a risk to their lives and/or health.

It is not only those in limbo overseas that suffer. The parent(s) in Australia do also. Such separations are a major cause of the high incidence of mental illnesses suffered by asylum seekers, including those who have gained permanent residence or citizenship here.

Another effect of the directive is that children separated during high school or late primary school years will reach adulthood before the application is processed and decided, whereupon they are no longer eligible for a family visa, and will thus be separated for life.

One or more federal MPs are sponsoring a Petition asking that such visa applications sponsored by permanent residents (formerly asylum seekers) be processed in the same order of priority as applications sponsored by other permanent residents or citizens of Australia.

Please visit and sign the petition here.

(The petition is not particularly well written but it does give a good overview of the problem, and we are assured that the sponsoring MPs will be well briefed, and thus able to make a good case to the House.)