Australian Law Reform Commission calls for new immigration rules to protect migrants

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The Australian Law Reform Commission published a report this week stating that Australia needs to bring in new immigration laws to protect migrant women fleeing family violence. The commission's report recommended several immigration law reforms to allow migrants affected by domestic violence on temporary visas to stay and seek help in Australia.

Their recommendations included:
  • The creation of a new temporary visa to allow secondary visa holders, such as the partners of international students, to stay in Australia to seek help or apply for residency.
  • Extending family violence provisions to migrants on prospective spouse visas.
  • Simplifying the evidence requirements for family violence cases required at immigration tribunals.
Domestic violence and migrant service groups support the new proposals and immigration reforms suggested by the Australian Law Reform commission. Service groups have said they have seen a surge in temporary migrants seeking help.

Reform of the Migration Act is ''long overdue,'' said Fiona McCormack, chief executive of Domestic Violence Victoria. ''This is a human rights issue for Australia; we have a positive obligation to provide protection to women in Australia to live free from violence. Complexity and inconsistency within the immigration system contributes to the extremely difficult situation faced by migrants and refugees experiencing family violence.''

The number of migrant women declaring family violence when applying for permanent visas has increased by 45 percent in the past financial year. Also, 250 women on temporary visas sought help from the Immigrant Women's Domestic Violence Service, a 10 percent increase on 2010. Under certain circumstances, some have been allowed to stay but others have no legal protection. For example, wives of international students have no rights under Australian law and have been deported if they leave their husbands.

The Australian government has not said whether or not it will adopt any of the recommendations, but the commission expects them to issue a response by mid-year.

''The Australian government takes a very strong stance on family violence and child abuse and is committed to improving Commonwealth laws to respond to this issue,'' Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said.

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