Ballarat’s mayor urges the federal government to provide a much-loved family of asylum seekers with greater security when they mark their eighth year, stuck in “limbo.”
Neil Para and his family arrived in Ballarat from Sri Lanka in 2013 on a temporary bridge visa
More than 350,000 people in Australia have bridge visas
Ballarat Mayor Daniel Moloney says the council will continue to advocate for the Para family
Neil Para, his wife Sugaa Neil and their three school-age daughters moved from Sri Lanka to Ballarat in September 2013 on a bridge visa.
But Mr Para said their visas were revoked for no apparent reason just four months later.
The couple has since sought asylum and has not been able to work legally.
They cannot access public services such as Medicare and Centrelink.
“We are still in limbo. No visas, nothing at all,” Mr Para said.
“We want to work, but are unable to work.”
‘The height of cruelty’
The Para family is committed to giving back to their communities despite their challenging situation.
Sir. Para is a volunteer in the Victoria State Emergency Services Ballarat Unit, and Mrs. Neil is a volunteer in the City Visitor Information Center.
Mayor Daniel Moloney called on the federal government to end the Para family’s “cruel” ordeal as Australia marked its annual refugee week.
“It’s another level of cruelty when you actually say to a refugee family, ‘you can not work, you can not earn an income and are dependent on others,'” Mr Moloney said.
“It’s just the height of cruelty.”
He said he and former mayors had written to the former Morrison government in a push to ensure family safety and “pave the way” for permanent citizenship.
“We love what Neil and Sugaa have done for us,” he said.
Sir. Moloney said the sympathy shown by the federal government for allowing other Tamil refugee families, the Murugappans, to return to Biloela in central Queensland should be extended to the Para family.
“They are in almost exactly the same situation,” he said.
“Fortunately, they have not been forced into offshore imprisonment … but there are many similarities.”
In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs said it did not comment on individual cases but “non-citizens who have exhausted all options to remain in Australia are expected to leave”.
Refugee pushes for reforms
Ballarat refugee Raza Hazara also calls on the federal government to improve the policies of refugees and asylum seekers.
Hazara spent six months in community prison when he arrived in Ballarat from Afghanistan in 2013 as a teenager.
He said he experienced feelings of fear and insecurity when he was released from prison.
“It was really hard,” he said.
“There wasn’t much support to be honest, it was really limited.”
Sir. At the end of last year, Hazara received a company visa for safe harbor.
While the visa gave him greater rights such as employment rights in designated areas and Medicare, Mr Hazara said it was not without conditions and restrictions.
“You have access to education, but it’s limited to TAFE,” he said.
“You cannot go to university or be eligible for any HECS support.”
He said Australia’s refugee policy “puts pressure on people’s mental health”.
“It does not give (refugees) the reasonable opportunity to accept that they are part of the community, that Australia is their new home and they can move on and rebuild a new life here,” he said.
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