Ukrainians in Australia call on government to review visa legislation

February 20,2024 677
Ukrainians in Australia call on government to review visa legislation

The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) calls on the Australian government to review visa legislation for Ukrainians who have been affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion and have sought refuge in the country.

After almost two years in Australia, the limitation of a three-year stay for those who arrived on Humanitarian 786 visas prior to 31 July 2022 is causing major stress and anxiety for displaced Ukrainians. Alternative visa options present significant challenges, with no readily identifiable pathway for them to secure permanent residency,” AFUO’s statement reads. 

Ukrainians in Australia have appealed to legislators to create an effective mechanism allowing displaced people to establish their lives in the country legally. This concerns Ukrainians who arrived after 31 July 2022 on Tourist visas before transitioning to Emergency Bridging Visas (EBV). While they may not face a three-year limit on their stay, this cohort awaits the Government’s decision on Protection 866 visas.

After arriving in the country with very little except some of their family and a few belongings, displaced Ukrainians have picked themselves up and sought to reestablish their lives. They have learnt English, found work, and their children have enrolled in local primary and high schools. However, we are now two years into this brutal, illegal Russian war on Ukraine, and we are not seeing any quick way to get Ukrainians back to a safe and stable country. So the AFUO is calling on the Federal Government to review the current approach to visas for Ukrainians impacted by Russia’s full-scale invasion and to help establish viable options for those seeking permanent residency.,” says Stefan Romaniw, Co-chair of the AFUO and UWC Vice President. 

A significant portion of forced Ukrainian migrants consists of women and children. They are motivated, highly educated, and have years of experience in professions in high demand in the Australian job market, emphasized by the AFUO.

However, many are not eligible to apply for skilled visa categories, or sponsorship visas through employers because they are over the age cut off; their English language skills have not yet reached the proficiency required for skilled migration; their skills do not align perfectly with Australia’s specific demands; or companies are unwilling to sponsor them due to their lack of local experience and inability to provide documentation of their experience in Ukraine. The most heartbreaking cases are the students who are about to leave high school but cannot access TAFE or tertiary education unless they secure a scholarship,” the statement reads. 

The AFUO holds regular consultations with the relevant ministry and is actively working on addressing the current situation, seeking visa pathways for consideration by the government.

While we are grateful the Government has welcomed these displaced Ukrainians, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues. Displaced Ukrainians need certainty, and we look forward to working with the Government to secure their futures in Australia, should they wish to stay,” Romaniw says.

Moreover, 59% of Australians favor assisting such as visas, educational opportunities, and employment support to displaced individuals from Ukraine in Australia, according to a nationally representative survey commissioned by the AFUO in early February 2024. Only 15% disagree with this stance.

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