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New law to stop domestic violence offenders from sponsoring family visas

Under the new law, those backing out from their obligation of supporting the sponsored family members will face consequences.

The Senate will debate key changes in the migration law on Thursday in a bid to crackdown on serious family violence offenders which will stop them from sponsoring a spouse to obtain an Australian visa.

The legislation Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016 was earlier introduced in parliament in March last year and was reintroduced in the House of Representatives in September last year after it lapsed due to the federal election.

The bill has already been passed by the lower house.

Under the changed law, the sponsors will be scrutinised before visas are issued and those who don't properly assist the new arrivals will be punished.

Though the existing law requires the sponsors have to promise to support the sponsored family members for two years, there are no consequences if they reneged.

The new law aims to fix these shortcomings by requiring sponsors to be assessed and imposing penalties for breaches of obligations.

If passed, the law will also allow the Immigration Department to decline permission to sponsor a partner in case an applicant has a history of serious criminal conduct in a relationship or any convictions for sex offences.

The legislation is primarily aimed at protecting vulnerable visa holders from family violence, such as women and children.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said it was a “significant step” in protecting potentially vulnerable visa applicants from the risk of domestic violence.

“The measures being introduced in this Bill build on the work being done across all areas of government to reduce the incidence of domestic violence in our community and support the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children,’’ Mr Dutton said before the bill was reintroduced in the House of Representatives.

Under the amended law, any persons sponsoring a family member’s visa will require prior approval and the sponsorship assessment will be a separate process from the visa application. There will be a greater emphasis on the assessment of persons sponsoring family members on a temporary visa.

The amendments would enable the Immigration Department to take action against the sponsors who back out from their obligation of supporting a family member.

Muktesh Chibber is a Couple and Family Therapist and has been working in the community for the past 28 years. She says the amendments are good when applied to situations where sponsored parents are facing abuse.

“I have come across matters where parents feel abused by their adult children. It’s sad to see their situation when they are at their children’s mercy after having sold their belongings overseas,” she said.

But in case of spouse sponsorship, Ms Chibber says it’s important to establish a fair process to identify someone as a perpetrator of domestic violence.

“Some cases are of clear-cut abuse and some are of conflict. It’s important to determine the bar and the evidence to identify the perpetrators of family violence and the measures of support need to be debated with a lot of diligence to ensure the safety of all parties involved,” Ms Chibber told SBS Punjabi. 

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