Asylum seekers living in Canberra will have access to longer visas with a pathway to permanent residency, as part of the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) program.
The SHEV program was designed to encourage asylum seekers who arrived by boat to work or study in certain parts of regional Australia, and until now only applied to Tasmania and some parts of New South Wales.
But the ACT‘s Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Yvette Berry, successfully applied to the Federal Government for Canberra be included in the scheme.
“[This] gives them more certainty about where they live now and the communities that they’re part of … giving them more hope and stability,” she said.
Under the visa, refugees can access Medicare, receive some social security payments and access up to 510 hours of English language tuition.
Unlike temporary protection visas, refugees who work or study in a designated area over five years can then apply for other visa types, like partner or skilled visas.
Migration lawyer and academic, Marianne Dickie, said the change would be of most help to the 200 asylum seekers already living in Canberra.
“They’re terrified that they have to move, because they have support networks here, they’ve been living here for three or four years,” she said.
“They know their neighbours, their family, their schools, their jobs. So [this is] wonderful news for them.”
Ms Dickie said the program would be an important part of helping asylum seekers contribute to the community at large.
“In developing their potential they’ll help Canberra, because these are talented people who are seeking protection and seeking a new life.”
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