14 Jul 2004

Refugee advocate in Australia says the Government's latest move over visas treats refugees as pawns

3:58 pm on 14 July 2004

A refugee advocate has accused the Australian government of using refugees from the Nauru detention centre as pawns in a pre-election stunt.

The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone has announced that Australia's 9,500 temporary protection visa holders, can now apply for a mainstream migration visa.

However, the president of the Hazara Ethnic Society of Australia, Hassan Ghulam, says this is merely the formalisation of an existing practice.

He says the 69 Afghani refugees who have just arrived from Nauru are not eligible to apply until they have lived in Australia for a certain period.

And, even after that, he says they face a lengthy process.

"After their eligibility, would they get it is another question because there will again be case officers, there will be again RRT, which means Refugee Review Tribunal, and again federal courts and all of that."

Mr Ghulam says there are still more than a hundred asylum seekers remaining on Nauru at the detention centre.

They include 29 Afghanis and 55 people from Iraq, Bangaladesh, Palestine and Pakistan.

Also included are 22 people from the Tampa, who have been recognised as refugees, and negotiations are apparently continuing with New Zealand over their future.