Perpetual Insecurity 4a - Bridging Visas: lives in limbo


Bridge to nowhere: lives in limbo

[imagecaption] ”We have been forced into isolation’: life on a bridging visa’, The Guardian, 2016. Video: Abdul Karim Hekmat and Josh Wall. The conditions of bridging visas exclude people from fully participating in society, resulting in social isolation and mental distress. [/imagecaption]

‘I can’t sleep at night. I don’t know what happen in the future, if we will be sent back or stay here.’ 

Haleema, Hazara asylum seeker


From late 2011, people seeking asylum in Australia started being released from immigration detention prior to their claims for protection being finalised. People who arrived after 13 August 2012 who were granted Bridging Visas were all denied the right to work (Fleay and Hartley, 1034). This forced people to try to survive below the poverty line on Status Resolution Support Service (SRSS) payments that equated to only 89% of the Centrelink Newstart allowance. In April 2015, work rights were introduced; however, by the following year there were still thousands of people who remained without them (Fleay and Hartley, 1032). Following the introduction of work rights, short visa grant periods have exacerbated barriers to securing employment. Precarious immigration status heightens vulnerability to exploitation, unfair working conditions and a continuing sense of insecurity.

Communities of support mobilised to assist refugees on bridging visas with donations, volunteer legal and social assistance, opportunities for training and education, fostering networks of solidarity, friendship and love. Despite these strong bonds of support, however, some asylum seekers and refugees experience deep suffering and isolation. One of these cases is that of Leo Seemanpillai (discussed below), who, despite significant local support, was overwhelmed by intolerable fears of deportation.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.