Calls for transparency on Australian visa cancellations

Calls for transparency on Australian visa cancellations
Image: Protestors during a pro-Palestine demonstration in Sydney. Bianca de Marchi, AAP Image

Calls for transparency from the government are mounting over reports of Palestinians fleeing Gaza having their Australian visas cancelled while in transit.

According to figures from the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian government granted 2,273 temporary (subclass 600) visas for Palestinians with family in Australia between October 7 and February 6 this year.

But several Palestinians had their visas cancelled upon arrival at the airport, or even mid-air.

Reasons for cancelling the visas have remained unclear. The Australian Government expressed concerns about how some visa holders passed through the Rafah border to Egypt.

Palestinians must be approved by both the Israeli and Egyptian authorities to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.

Further concerns were expressed that Palestinians wouldn’t be staying temporarily, as it is unsure how long the war in Gaza will continue.

President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) Lydia Shelly has written an open letter to the Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil, urging for clarity on the situation.

“There has not been any transparency from the government regarding their visa cancellations,” she wrote.

“It does not make sense that people who had previously passed security clearances suddenly find their visas cancelled.”

Furthermore, the lack of clear feedback on the visa cancellations limits individuals’ options for an appeal, she continued.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began bombing the besieged territory, after the Hamas attacks on October 7.

The visa cancellations have left Palestinians stranded – an injured 23-year-old man is currently stuck in an Istanbul airport after his visa was cancelled en route to Australia. He cannot return to Egypt or leave the airport without a valid visa.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong acknowledged that the visa cancellations were “incredibly distressing” for people with family in Gaza, but ultimately defended the visa system.

Ms Shelly said that in a time like this, Palestinians need certainty.

“People who are fleeing the occupation, violence and starvation in Palestine have faced extraordinary trauma,” she said.

“It is inhumane to add this intolerable burden to desperate people escaping the horrendous conditions in their homeland. These people need certainty,” she continued.

“For Australia to suddenly pull the rug out from underneath adds to their tremendous suffering and creates further chaos in an already chaotic situation.”


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