New 'Safe Haven' visa announced in Australia

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A new deal has been agreed in Australia between the Palmer United Party and Federal government to allow refugee families to live on mainland Australia.

A new visa has been created called the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHAV), which is valid for five years. It allows for the visa holder to be sent to regions of Australia that are experiencing labour shortages and also to remote areas of Australia.

PUP Party leader Clive Palmer said 'areas identified are those locations in Australia where labour resources are most needed. These visa holders will be targeted to regions and encouraged to fill regional vacancies,'

Currently refugees wishing to claim asylum in Australia are sent to Nauru or Manus Island. It is hoped that these new changes will allow refugees to integrate into the Australian community, and contribute to the local economy.

He said 'during the five year period, visa holders have an opportunity to provide bona fides, and contribute to Australian society by paying taxes and adding to the economy's productivity levels.'

Holders of the new visa will be able to apply for work rights, have access to employment services, medicare, trauma counselling, translation services, and education for school aged children.

Palmer described it as 'a win for refugees… And it's a win for regional Australia.'

As part of the deal, the government has also agreed to support assisted voluntary return packages, to repatriate the refugees into their native countries. This is particularly aimed at reuniting unaccompanied minors with their parents or relatives.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has reassured parliament that this new visa will not encourage a flow of asylum seekers to Australia, as happened with the Temporary Protection Visa.

'This will help ensure that the tap stays off, that it will never return, and we will never go back to the cost and chaos and tragedy that was put in place under the previous government.'

Sanwar Ali, of said 'I think what the government is saying is a bit misleading. It seems some people will gain permanent residence via this scheme.'

Labor's Shadow Minister for Immigration, Richard Marles while not necessarily agreeing with the scheme in its entirety, said that if the Temporary Safe Haven Enterprise Visa provided a pathway to citizenship this would be a welcome change.

'In relation to the temporary safe haven enterprise visas from the minister's press conference today it would appear that a pathway to citizenship is being provided.'

It seems that if asylum seekers were able to meet a series of conditions, and were able to stay off welfare benefits, then potentially they could apply for other visas and stay on a longer term basis.