Children are seen attending a rally by Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders outside Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 29 July, 2019.
Children are seen attending a rally by Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders outside Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 29 July, 2019. AAP Image - Lukas Coch

Refugees rally against temporary visas

Hundreds of asylum seekers have descended on Canberra to voice their frustration about being "left in limbo" by successive Australian governments.

More than 200 people who arrived by boat between 2011 and 2013 picketed outside Parliament House on Monday.

Some brandished signs pleading for help to reunite with their families, while others held aloft a cardboard coffin draped in an Australian flag.

The protesters likened the country's temporary protection visa scheme to racial vilification.

"Eight years is long enough," they chanted in unison.

The asylum seekers delivered a petition to parliament demanding a bipartisan agreement to end the "harsh and inhumane" treatment of people seeking protection who now called Australia home.

 

Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders are seen as they attend a rally outside Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 29 July, 2019.
Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) holders are seen as they attend a rally outside Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 29 July, 2019. AAP Image - Lukas Coch

The use of indefinite temporary protection visas had left them without stability, impairing their mental health, and unable to see a path to a permanent home.

"People cannot find secure work to feed themselves and their families," Iraqi Council Melbourne president Samir Kafaji told reporters.

He accused politicians and the media of practising "racial vilification" by using words such as "illegal" to dehumanise and criminalise asylum seekers.

Clutching a framed photo of her son, Nawahedh Albaheli said she and her family had been living with uncertainty for eight years.

Along with her husband and five children, Ms Albaheli fled the Iraqi city of Basra due to ongoing violence in 2010, travelling by boat from Indonesia to Australia in 2011.

Intercepted by border patrol, they spent three months in a Darwin detention centre before being released under a community detention order, unable to work or attend school for several years.

"It was very difficult, the government wouldn't give us a proper visa," she told AAP.

In 2017, her youngest son Montadher became seriously ill with thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder.

He died in Melbourne, aged 15, and his body was repatriated back to Iraq for burial.

But his mother, who is currently on a five-year Safe Haven Enterprise Visa, is unable to visit his grave.

"I applied to ask the government if I could go with him, to make sure it was done correctly, but they said if I went I could not come back," Ms Albaheli said.

"I just want to see my son."