Key PointsActivists gathered in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.Advocates say around 12,000 refugees and asylum seekers have been left on bridging or expired visas.Some of these refugees have no pathway to permanent residency.Hundreds of activists have gathered at Palm Sunday rallies around the country to demand the federal government give permanent visas for refugees stuck in limbo.Protesters in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne held placards reading, "Permanent visas for all" and "10 years too long", and accusing the government of "using refugees as political prisoners".Rallies were also planned for other capitals and major regional centres.On a soggy Sunday dozens of demonstrators turned up in Sydney's CBD, including Bangladeshi refugee Bahar Uddin.
The 38-year-old escaped political persecution where his father was a victim of an extrajudicial killing and his brother was forcibly disappeared by security forces.
Seeking asylum in Australia, he jumped on a rickety boat in 2012 and was detained on Christmas Island for two months.He was able to settle in Sydney and said he attended the rally to call for his precarious situation to be resolved."I am on a bridging visa waiting for 10 years," he told AAP."It's good the government gave visas for 19,000 people but I'm still one of 12,000 people waiting."
Advocates lauded the government's decision in February to grant permanent residency visas to 19,000 asylum seekers on temporary protection visas, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.
Protesters gathered in capital cities around Australia to call for better treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Source: AAP / Flavio Brancaleone
But they said it had left about 12,000 other refugees and asylum seekers who were rejected under the previous government's fast-track process on bridging or expired visas.Included in the group are more than 1000 refugees who have been transferred from offshore detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea to Australia with no pathway towards permanent resettlement.Firas Al-Kilaby, a 44-year-old Iraqi refugee, fears he will be deported with his bridging visa expiring later this month.The son of a senior official in Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime, he was detained in a Baghdad jail for eight months after successive Shi'ite-dominated governments and militias targeted families of the former regime when it fell in 2003.
Mr Al-Kilaby fled Iraq in 2013 via Malaysia and Indonesia, arriving by boat on Christmas Island where he was detained for a couple of months then held at another detention facility in Australia for several months.
The glass repair business owner has been on a bridging visa for the last decade but has managed to build a life where his two children were born as Australian citizens."I have no Iraqi passport and I have no family back in Iraq so what will I do if I'm deported back and separated from my wife and children?," he told AAP.He said if he is deported Iraqi security forces would immediately detain him.
"I'm asking Prime Minister Anthony Albanese how can you accept that I haven't been able to see my father and mother for over a decade and how can you accept me being separated from my children if I'm deported back to Iraq?," Mr Al-Kilaby said.
He said his last resort is the immigration minister granting him a permanent visa."We left because our homeland was not safe for us and now we belong to Australia, we pay our taxes, we work very hard ... but I haven't been given a future because of my visa situation."Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said the Albanese government had also maintained the former Liberal government's ban on accepting more than 7000 refugees from Indonesia.
"Many of the asylum seekers left on bridging visas are victims of Australia's foreign policy failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and Sri Lanka," he said.