Visa cancellation debacle highlights need for consistency of immigration process, clearer communication with Palestinian community

Mar 18, 2024

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) has expressed its relief at the Australian Government’s decision to restore some of the visas it cancelled for Palestinians fleeing Gaza last week.

However, APAN President Nasser Mashni said despite the reversal of the some of the cancellations, the incident had already compounded the trauma the Palestinian community was feeling, as it tried to support loved ones fleeing Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

“For the government’s immigration process to have allowed people to line up at the boarding gates of airports in third countries, only to be told they were no longer able to come to Australia, was appallingly callous,” Mr Mashni said.

“The people issued these visas are not just names on a list, or numbers, they are traumatised families, many of them with children, escaping six long months – and counting – of brutal Israeli violence and terror.”

Mr Mashni said the incident highlighted the double standards in the government’s handling of visa applications and allocations for Palestinians, particularly when compared to its processing of visas for people fleeing other humanitarian crises, including Ukrainians escaping Russian atrocities in early 2022.

“In the Ukrainian case, for instance, the Australian Government recognised the urgency and desperate need for swift action, and supported more than 11,000 Ukrainians to arrive in Australia within the first five months of Russia’s violence,” Mr Mashni said.

“By comparison, only 2000 visas have been issued to Palestinians in Gaza in that same amount of time, and only 400 of these people have actually made it to Australia.

“Israel’s genocide is now in its sixth month, Netanyahu vows to continue to bombard Gaza despite international pressure, and yet we’re still not seeing our government extend the same urgency, support or level of care to Palestinians, that it so rightfully offered to Ukrainians and others fleeing recent humanitarian catastrophes.

“We expect the Australian Government to be consistent in its handling of visas and its decision-making.

“We also expect the government to review the way it communicates with our community and our loved ones fleeing Gaza, and to provide clear, transparent information about why decisions are being made and what options exist for people, so they are treated with the care and compassion they need in this horrific time.”