Asylum seekers may remain separated from family for years under newly reintroduced Temporary Protection Visas.
Crossbench senators have helped pass the reintroduction of Temporary Protection Visas (TPV), as part of controversial changes to Australia's migration laws.
The Senate and the House of Representatives were forced to delay their departure for the summer holidays as the Senate sat through the night on Thursday before passing the bill and returning it to the lower house for final agreement.
The visa category was first introduced by the Howard government in 1999, but was scrapped by Labor in 2008 in favour of permanent protection visas.
Under the new legislation, asylum seekers may be granted a visa for up to three years at one time.
The visa will give them access to paid work, but may keep them away from family for extended periods.
Legalisation passed in parliament stated there is no right to family reunification under international law.
'There is the potential that some Temporary Protection visa holders may remain separated from their family for years,' it read.
'Temporary Protection visa holders will be able to voluntarily depart and return to their family and country of origin or any other country they have permission to enter at any time, and may particularly wish to do so where circumstances in their country of origin have changed.'
Visa holders will not have access to a number of support payments, including the healthcare card, pensioner concessions and rent assistance.
‘There will be a challenge the moment a boat comes’
The new migration laws may be challenged in the High Court by lawyers claiming they breach Australia's human rights obligations.
Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman and barrister Greg Barns said the High Court was likely to take a close look at the constitutionality of the new laws.
“There will be a challenge the moment a boat comes over the horizon,” Mr Barns said.
The case would likely revolve around an injunction against the immigration minister seeking to exercise his powers to send an asylum seeker home without regard to non-refoulement - a principle of law which protects persecution victims.
Mr Barns said the laws undermined the United Nations refugee convention, to which Australia is a signatory.
Push to release all children from detention
Advocates have welcomed some measures outlined in the bill, including the pledge to release children from immigration detention on Christmas Island before Christmas.
The government has also agreed to quickly process the claims of 30,000 asylum seekers languishing in detention centres across Australia.
New five-year safe-haven enterprise visas will be introduced to encourage refugees to live and work in regional areas that have acute labour shortages, and could eventually offer a pathway to a permanent visa.
Refugee advocate Pamela Curr told SBS that the government should also release the 167 children currently housed the Nauru facility.
Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said the government should have released the children long ago.
“These kids have been sitting there for 15 months and you want a pat on the back!” she said.
“You've got to be kidding yourselves.”