Is the Pacific Engagement Visa Australia’s First Climate Change Humanitarian Visa?
What is the Pacific Engagement Visa?
The Australian Government has announced a new visa program called the Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) to boost Pacific permanent migration to Australia and build a stronger Pacific family. The program is expected to commence mid-next year and will allow 3000 people from the Pacific and Timor-Leste to migrate to Australia annually.
The Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) is expected to increase permanent migration from the Pacific and Timor-Leste, growing the diaspora in Australia, strengthening people-to-people links, and encouraging greater cultural, business and educational exchange.
- Will allow up to 3,000 nationals of Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste to migrate to Australia as permanent residents each year.
- The visa will grow Australia’s Pacific and Timor-Leste diaspora.
- The visas will be allocated annually by a ballot process, those selected from the ballot will be invited to apply for permanent residence.
- Applicants will need to secure a written employment agreement in Australia and meet other migration requirements to be eligible.
- Applicants may include their partner and legally dependent children.
Climate change and the Pacific Engagement Visa
Climate change is a major issue in the Pacific region, with many Pacific Islanders facing displacement due to rising sea levels and other climate-related factors. According to the United Nations, every year, more than 50,000 people in the Pacific are forced to flee their homes due to the devastating impacts of disasters and climate change. Pacific islanders are amongst those most at risk of being displaced, bearing the brunt of sudden and slow-onset effects of climate change with humanitarian consequences. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is working with Pacific Island countries to help them adapt to climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The UN considers the climate security agenda as a key entry point for risk-informed development in the Pacific region. Its integration needs to be translated into concrete actions at the community level where the climate change impact on security is already a reality.
How the Pacific Engagement Visa addresses climate change
The Pacific Engagement Visa (PEV) is a new visa program that will allow people migrate annually from the Pacific and Timor-Leste to Australia. The PEV will increase permanent migration from the Pacific and Timor-Leste, growing the diaspora in Australia, strengthening people-to-people links, and encouraging greater cultural, business and educational exchange. The PEV has been compared to a humanitarian visa rather than a labour supplementation visa, and at 3,000 permanent resident places per annum, it could be Australia’s first climate change humanitarian visa. By prioritising the Pacific Island countries that are most at risk of climate-induced displacement in its new Pacific Engagement Visa program, the Australian Government can be a leader in the region.
Criticisms of the Pacific Engagement Visa
Some businesses have criticised the Pacific Engagement Visa, saying it does not incentivise investment in accommodation for migrant workers. The Member for Mallee Anne Webster has also criticised the intent of the visa, arguing it would fail to address workforce shortages, particularly in regional areas. The Coalition has also opposed the visa lottery element of the Pacific Engagement Visa, despite backing the principle of the visa. The Pacific Engagement Visa is an important change in Australia’s permanent migration system.
Benefits of the Pacific Engagement Visa
The Pacific Engagement Visa will provide Pacific Islanders with greater opportunities to live and work in Australia. The visa will strengthen people-to-people links between Australia and the Pacific region and encourage greater cultural, business and educational exchange. It should also help address skills shortages in Australia and boost the economy.
To be eligible for the Pacific Engagement Visa, applicants must have a job offer in Australia and meet certain health and character requirements. There is no exact date for when the Pacific Engagement Visa ballot registrations open. The visa is expected to commence in July 2023 and This is Australia will publish more information when it becomes available.