Family ties: JRS Australia makes submission to Senate inquiry into family and partner reunions

04 June 2021

A family lays cuddled close in front of their tent.

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia made a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs inquiry into the ‘Efficacy, fairness, timeliness, and costs of the processing and granting of visa classes which provide for or allow for family and partner reunions.’

JRS Australia’s submission focuses on the denial of eligibility for and access to family reunion for people seeking asylum and refugees in Australia. It highlights the ways in which the Australian Government’s family reunion policies prolong family separation and exacerbate its negative impacts.

JRS Australia’s submission is based on experiences working with thousands of people seeking asylum and refugees who are affected by these policies.

Their stories and testimonies, and those of their family members in the Asia-Pacific region, find prominent place in this submission.

Specifically, the submission canvasses five policies and practices which prolong the separation of families in which one or more members is a refugee or person seeking asylum in Australia.

  • Refugees on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) are not eligible for family reunion.
  • People seeking asylum face significant delays through refugee status determination (RSD) in Australia extending the period of time during which they are ineligible for family reunion.
  • Refugees on permanent visas arriving by boat are accorded lowest priority for family reunion within the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) and the Family stream of the overall Migration program.
  • Offshore processing policies contribute to family separation in a range of ways.
  • Refugees arriving in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 are ineligible for resettlement in Australia despite the presence of family members who are citizens or permanent residents onshore.

JRS Australia’s submission makes eight recommendations with regards to the issues canvassed, which include a call to allow refugees on temporary visas to sponsor their family members to reside in Australia under the same visa conditions, to abolish restrictions on overseas travel for temporary family reunions, to dedicate additional resources towards RSD processing, and to introduce a new family reunion stream within the humanitarian program.

You can read the entire submission and all eight recommendations here. You can also read all of JRS Australia’s policy submissions over the last four years here.