Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Form 80: Stopping refugees in their tracks

By Lauren Gumbs

As far as hoops go, there is nothing quite like Form 80.

This 18 page document, ‘Personal particulars for assessment including character assessment’, is used to satisfy immigration requirements in cases where applicants are determined to be a potential security risk. Such risks are evaluated on things like age, ethnicity and nationality, countries of current and previous residence and purpose of stay in Australia. The form is used for applicants of permanent residency visas as well as temporary work visas like the 457 visa.

Those applying for protection visas though, are more likely to be required to fill out this form than those from say the UK, applying for skilled migration. Form 80 asks for total disclosure of one’s identity and history in 55 teeth grinding questions that push the limits of an applicant’s known record of their personal history. Among the questions asked are:

Have you ever had a different date of birth to the one shown at Question 1?
Do you have any email addresses? Provide all of your email addresses
Your address history for the last 30 years
• addresses inside and outside Australia
• places you resided for study/work
• refugee camps
• any other place you have resided such as share houses, university residences and temporary accommodation.
Have you travelled to any country other than Australia in the last 30 years? List all.
Give details of all education and qualifications since birth.
Police certificates for all countries lived in for the past ten years since you were 16 years of age.

Providing this information is not only a challenge for an Australian with a good memory and excellent filing system, it is a Herculean task for a refugee family after fleeing state persecution with all they have left on their backs. Form 80 is a gatekeeper. It asks people to recall the past 30 years of their lives and when they can’t it works to effectively obstruct entry into Australia or in the case of refugees, perverts the application process to such an extent that mandatory detention becomes a sentence for those who fail to accurately recall the address of a relative’s home they stayed in ten years ago.

A form that asks one to “Give details of all employment and unemployment since birth” is a form designed to prohibit access through a carefully applied bureaucracy. When used in conjunction with the enhanced powers of the Minister for Immigration and his Departmental officers under Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4020, as well as other tough refugee policies such as intake and protection visa caps and mandatory detention, Form 80 is a particularly effective firewall against unwanted migration. And now refugees can no longer appeal migration decisions in court or access free legal representation. Once a visa application is denied it is almost impossible to apply again with a different story or information.

Form 80 is the last line in bureaucratic defence of territorial sovereignty and it is an exquisitely elaborate process to legitimise the identity of an outsider, most notably those outsiders who lack the stability an identity confirmed through paper trails. Scott Morrison and the Department of Immigration enlist these evasive legislative and regulatory tools to sustain a tough stance on refugees, not least the impenetrable principle of the Doublespeak that characterises protection visas.

Siobhan Keating, a Human Rights lawyer, despairs of the catch 22 situation where, “to be eligible for a protection visa under Morrison's new laws, you must apply for a visa in Australia having arrived after fleeing your homeland for fear of persecution. But if you arrive in Australia without a visa because you fled your homeland for fear of persecution, you're not eligible for a protection visa.”
She says to put it another way, “the only people who are eligible for a protection visa are those people to whom we have already granted a visa.”

Form 80 is required by applicants of visas who are already in Australia at the time they apply and it only requested from external applicants who are flagged. For refugees in Australia who meet the criteria of refugee but fail to satisfy Form 80’s security assessment, they become stuck between a rock and a hard place; they cannot go home but they cannot stay. Under the Refugee Convention however, refugees can only be excluded from protection if they have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes or a present a danger to the security of the country. Not if they cannot name their brother or sister’s address or don’t know their parent’s date of birth.

But then again, an applicant will never know the reason for an adverse security assessment as this is determined by ‘outside agencies’ aka ASIO, and unable to be challenged or corrected.
Form 80 demonstrates a radical Australian interpretation of sovereignty that prevails over international Human Rights obligations. Ten years ago the form was just two pages. Today fear of asylum seekers has swollen and so have the impenetrable documents that are used to substantiate prolonged and hopeless stays in mandatory detention.

Lauren is a Human Rights student who holds a Master in Communications. She is the blog editor at the Indonesia Institute.

No comments:

Post a Comment