“This Fight Isn’t Over Until Everyone Is Safe”: Interview with Aran Mylvaganam from the Tamil Refugee Council
“I’m getting calls every day from people who want to come to the upcoming refugee rights rally in Canberra. People who have been part of the community for ten years, and are devastated. I’m getting calls from people in detention, people who celebrated when the Liberals were kicked out, and are now realising that nothing will change for them.”
The Albanese government’s recent announcement that 19,000 refugees on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs) would be eligible to apply for permanent Resolution of Status came as a relief to many. Those on TPVs have needed to reapply for protection every three years and have been excluded from accessing full working rights or Centrelink, HECS or NDIS support. The announcement was hailed as a victory of unity and compassion over division and fear by some refugee advocates, however 12,000 people have been excluded from this decision and still face deportation.
This number includes people who arrived in Australia at the start of Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013, people who have had prior TPV or SHEV applications refused, have been previously released from offshore detention, or those on Bridging Visas. Most people on a Bridging Visa are on Category Type E Visa, which offers no work rights, no health care and no housing beyond six weeks of emergency accommodation. These people have been offered nothing in the wake of the Labor Government’s announcement. Hundreds of them will be separated from their families, as Aran Mylvaganam, founder of the Tamil Refugee Council, explains: “Following this announcement, some people will have family members who will have visas, when they themselves don’t.”
I ask Aran what it’s been like as a refugee activist and community organiser since the announcement last week. “I’m getting calls every day from people who want to come to the upcoming refugee rights rally in Canberra. People who have been part of the community for ten years, and are devastated. I’m getting calls from people in detention, people who celebrated when the Liberals were kicked out, and are now realising that nothing will change for them.”
The announcement came only a few days after the Labor Party re-authorised Nauru, the offshore refugee prison which has been the site of thousands of human rights abuses. In the same week, their proposed Visa Cancellation Bill passed, which will trigger the automatic visa cancellation of those with prior sentences. Over one hundred people previously released from detention have already been detained, some on the basis of a former driving offence.
I ask Aran what he thinks the biggest misconception about last week’s TPV announcement is. “Basically the Labor Party is getting a lot of praise for doing very little. It shows that they are not very different from the Liberals when it comes to the question of refugees. But refugees in Melbourne also showed what the proper response to this is, by organising a protest last week in front of Andrew Giles’ office, demanding permanent protection for all. They showed that this fight isn’t over until everyone is safe.”
Refugees and activists from Melbourne and Sydney will be meeting in Canberra on Monday 6 March outside Parliament House to demand permanent protection for all. Contact the Tamil Refugee Council, message the USYD SRC Refugee Rights Office page or call 0425306933 if you want to join and need transport from Sydney.