The Australian Immigration Department has recently announced that the government has spent $9 million to deal with an application backlog of more than 200,000 for Australian Citizenship.
Many refugees, out of which Biak Thwang Urai from Myanmar came to Australia in 2006 and lives in a modest home in Melbourne with his wife and six children. “The feeling as I arrived, I thought “this is the first sight of heaven.” We are very happy.” He told SBS News.
Mr. Urai fled Myanmar as he had been badly beaten by soldiers from the Burmese army after they had taken him on as a porter. He’d become sick and was unable to work.
“I worry that sometime the department will come and knock at the door and they’ll say ‘you need to go back to your country,” he said.
Mr. Urai applied for Australian Citizenship in 2015 to stop all the worries of going back but his papers were sent back. He has waited for five years in a refugee camp in Malaysia until he was finally granted asylum to come to Australia.
He applied again for the Australian Citizenship in 2017 and last year too where the department said that the requested birth and marriage certificate does not exist.
“We don’t have certificates because in my village there is no computers, everything no computer. My birth happened in the kitchen, not the hospital; it was very far away in the city.”
Therefore, obtaining replacement documents is difficult and costly, and a challenge faced by many refugees.
Western Melbourne Chin Community President Patrick Sang Hnin says he knows about the struggles of many people in his community.
“At least 1,000 people in his community have applied to become a citizen in the last two years and I don’t know of anyone who has been granted citizenship,” he said.
What is the cause of the Australian Citizenship delays?
In April 2017, then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a citizenship crackdown, sparking a flurry of new applications. However, the applications were not processed because the Department of Immigration waited for new eligibility criteria, including hard English test to come into effect.
The reforms were unable to pass the Senate, leaving a backlog of over 240,000 citizenship applicants by mid-2018-more than double the 2017 waiting list.
Last years, 80,649 people were granted Australian Citizenship, compared to 137,750 the year before. Additionally, One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson’s Bill to increase minimum residency requirements and impose a harder English language test for would be Australian citizens was also rejected by a Senate committee.
Mr. Chin said, “We are good people. We are going to become very good citizens we feel we owe it to the government and to the Australian people. We are here to do a good thing to support the country to grow, “he said.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship David Coleman said in a statement “the government will always work to make the system as functional and effective as possible.”
It “makes no apologies for ensuring only those who meet our security and character requirements are given Australian Citizenship.”
Mr. Coleman said $9 million is invested into recruiting and training extra staff to deal with the backlog, and as a result over 85,000 were approved in just the past eight months.
Though, the Immigration Department has not confirmed to SBS News the total number of applications are still waiting to be processed, with more than 200,000 are still in the waiting list of Citizenship line.
As a migrant looking to apply for Australian Citizenship, you have the option for Australia permanent residency visa categories under General Skill Migration Visa Programs, and Family Sponsorship Programs. Fill the Australia Assessment form to arrange a callback from the visa and immigration experts of Aptech Global.