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Faster asylum processing welcomed

11 October 20230 comments

Long-term asylum seekers have welcomed plans to speed up asylum claim processing in a move they say will be “life changing”.

Immigration minister Andrew Giles has announced a $160 million package to tackle the backlog of asylum claims, including $54 million to prioritise processing new claims.

The move follows the release of the Nixon Review, which found that people traffickers and unscrupulous employers are exploiting migrants by rorting the refugee protection system because claims mean people stay for up to a decade in Australia.

Syrian asylum seeker Nayran Tabiei, who was forced to flee both Iran and Syria, says having her asylum claim approved would be “life changing”.

“We are overjoyed at this news. It will mean we can finally move on with our lives and become full members of Australian society,” said Nayran, who runs a social enterprise café in St Kilda.

“There now seems a possibility that I can bring my sons to Australia,” she said.

Nayran and her husband were forced to flee Iran, where they ran successful business, when they became targets of the religious police.

After fleeing to Syria, the couple were again forced to flee their home, leaving behind their possessions, friends, and established lives when the Damascus café they operated was bombed by militants.

Afghan asylum seekers Obaidullah Mehak said the announcement meant that he could begin his life again.

“Today I feel like I can start living again and that this is the end of the torture of uncertainty,” he said.

“Now all of the goals, potential and ambition that I have can be realised at last,” he said.

Mehak, a lawyer and human rights activist was forced to flee Afghanistan in 2014 after falling foul of powerful warlords.

The $160 million package, including $54m to prioritise processing new claims, an attempt to break the business model of those suggesting junk claims as a means to remain in Australia.

The Nixon Review found those seeking to exploit migrants are taking advantage of the refugee protection system because claims can take a decade to process.

This is partly because of a 2.4-year average processing time for claims, a further 3.6 years for merits review and three to five for judicial review.

The government claims it will be able to process new claims in as fast as seven weeks for genuine refugees, and that “real-time” processing starting with the latest applications will be fairer without harming those already in the queue.

The government will spend $58m to hire ten new members of the administrative appeals tribunal, in addition to the 93 appointments already made and ten federal circuit judges, to work with the 21 who now judge migration matters. It will also invest $48m in legal assistance services.

Mr Giles said the Nixon Review had “unearthed a rampant lack of integrity in our migration system”.

He cited the fact 140,000 people arrived in Australia and claimed asylum onshore under the former Coalition government. Approximately 90 per cent of people who lodge protection visa applications are found not to be owed protection.