Changes to immigration laws to be implemented by the Morrison government will impact same sex couples seeking to be united through the Partner Visa scheme. Under the new law an English-speaking test will be required of all migrants and their permanent resident sponsors from mid next year.

Star Observer spoke with one couple who have been dealing with the full force of Australia’s immigration policy and the department of home affairs for four years. Not wishing to be named they told us about numerous occasions where they have had applications rejected.

“There’s a feeling of insensitivity or lack of empathy towards people who are physically distanced, particularly now because of COVID. My partner and I miss each other terribly. They need to understand I am a human being; I have feelings and I’ve been without my partner for months and months; I’m not getting any younger. There is no recognition of the heartache or sadness.”

Announced by Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge, who said in a press release of the new requirements that “English is our national language and is critical to getting a job, fully participating in our democracy and for social cohesion.

“We also know that without sufficient English language skills, migrants are particularly vulnerable to family violence and other exploitation and are less likely to know how and where to seek assistance.”

 The couple also added, “If they [migrants] are trying to do something to advantage Australia, make money and pay taxes so that they can support themselves we should be supporting these people 100 percent.

“My partner has such a strong desire to come to Australia because he is desperate to work. He wanted to do accredited courses online but was rejected because he doesn’t have a Visa. We are caught in the middle.

“About the English test, when we look back at the 60s migrants added so much to the culture. We became better for it, and now we are simply turning our back on that positive culture.

“It’s not the White Australia Policy, but I do think you need to have enough bucks, a partner visa is an absolute fortune. It disadvantages the poor, but everyone loves to the same degree. I don’t care if it is gay or straight, anyone who loves anyone deserves the right to be with that person.”

 These sentiments in particular are ones that have been expressed by many others, including Australian National University demographer Liz Allen who told SBS News that the changes to partner visa requirements would “return Australia back to the sentiments of the White Australia policy, sending a signal of what the government considers an appropriate relationship and that such an introduction will cause a great deal of stress and heartbreak for many.”

Indeed, it was only in 1966 that Australia’s inherently racist White Australia Policy was torn up. Enacted in 1901 after Australia’s federation, it aimed to not only restrict the number of non-white migrants to Australia, but also to deport ‘undesirable’ migrants who were already in the country. Yet in the 54 years since, have we really come that much further?

These changes to the visa application process also come at a time when Australia’s net overseas migration is expected to fall into negative levels for the first time since World War II with a loss of 72,000 people forecast for this financial year. We should also strongly consider the plight of refugees, of which many came to this country in the same manner that Australia’s first white settlers did yet upon arriving face years of indefinite detention. Some of these refugees have now been locked up in small hotels in both Brisbane and Melbourne for more than a year.

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