Refugee claimants in Australia will soon be settled in the New South Wales regional towns on five-year Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) if they are willing to live in the bush in stead of city life starting from July 1, 2015. New South Wales (NSW) is the first state to sign up for the new Safe Haven Enterprise Visa scheme introduced by Australia. However, there are concerns that asylum seekers opting for new visa scheme may be more vulnerable to exploitation by employers.
Asylum seekers in Australia who would opt for living and studying outside Sydney, Newcastle or Wollongong would have the possibility to obtain the 5 year Safe Haven Enterprise visa while waiting for decision on their refugee claim application.
Currently 8000 refugee claimants are residing in New South Wales out of 32000 eligible refugee claimants in Australia. Majority of the asylum seekers are living on bridging visas while their asylum claims are pending. Temporary Protection visas are other options currently available to asylum seekers in Australia.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of Greens has said in a statement that Safe Haven Enterprise visa s would increase the risk of workers being exploited by the employers. She further thought that these visas would leave people in “cruel and unnecessary limbo”.
On the other hand Mike Baird, NSW Premier, said the visa program would offer security for refugee claimants and would provide work force to the rural regions.
Mike Baird said in a statement, “As Australia’s economic powerhouse, NSW has an obligation to open its arms to those who are genuine refugees.”
“I am proud that NSW is the first state to sign up in principle to the Safe Haven Enterprise Scheme, which will give asylum seekers an alternative to the Temporary Protection Visa, with a five-year option to live and work in regional NSW,” the Premier added.
Mr Baird stressed that the Federal Government should provide a clear pathway to permanent residency for SHEV holders who obeyed the rules while making a contribution. The asylum seekers who opt for SHEV would have the chance to apply for an onshore visa if they did not claim welfare benefits for a minimum period of three and half years.
Tasmania is also considering follow the footsteps of New South Wales in joining the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa Scheme.