Shadow Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews warned that the centre-left Labor government’s plan to abolish temporary protection visas (TPVs) and safe haven enterprise (SHEVs) poses a “real risk” to Australian borders, as it could entice people smugglers and encourage illegal immigrants to enter the country. This decision would make about 19,000 refugees who have stayed in Australia for up to a decade eligible to apply for permanent residency. However, this would only apply to those arriving before Operation Sovereign Borders was established on Sep. 18, 2013, a military-led border security operation set out to combat people smuggling and defend the country’s borders.
During a Tuesday senate estimate, the Australian Navy revealed it has increased defence capability into Australia’s North as part of Operation Sovereign Borders to enhance border protection. Andrews called the scrapping of TPVs a “bungled policy implementation by the missing Minister for Home Affairs,” adding that the minister has been clearly advised that Temporary Protection Visas are a key deterrent measure. She stated to Sky News on Thursday that “people smugglers will look at every opportunity to restart their trade” and that “there have already been an increase in boat arrivals into or towards Australia, which is very concerning.”
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, however, insisted that the decision would not compromise the safety of Australian borders. In a media release on Feb. 13, O’Neil said the Labor government “believes that we can keep our borders safe while showing humanity too.” The Australian Greens welcomed the decision to scrap TPVs and SHEVs, saying it’s “a good one, and long overdue.”