Tasmanian Labor Senator Lisa Singh has written to federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, claiming her office has been “inundated” with questions about the government’s proposed changes to citizenship requirements.
In April, Mr Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced tighter criteria for the attainment of Australian citizenship.
In a joint statement, Mr Dutton and Mr Turnbull said citizenship was “at the heart of our national identity”.
“Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia,” Mr Dutton and Mr Turnbull said.
A quiz on so-called Australian values will be included in the new test which migrants will be obliged to take if they wish to gain citizenship.
The values-based test will ask applicants what their views on things such as domestic violence and female genital mutilation are.
A stricter English language test will also feature under the new proposed requirements.
The amount of time a migrant has to have held a permanent resident visa before applying for citizenship will rise from one year to four years.
Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia
In a May 12 letter to Mr Dutton, Senator Singh called on the Minister to ensure the citizenship system was “fair and legitimate”.
“Since the government’s announcement on April 20 this year, my office has been inundated with inquiries about the proposed restrictions,” she said.
“I have heard from a number of people for whom the changes represent a real threat to the security of their lives in the Australian community.”
Senator Singh included testimony from concerned migrants – with ethnic backgrounds ranging from French to Chilean - in her letter.
Several people expressed their disappointment that they would have to wait longer to apply for citizenship under the proposed laws.
One person said they and their family had been “working, paying … taxes and respecting all the Australian values” since they first arrived in the country.
“This sudden change is impacting our personal lives, as we could not forecast it,” the migrant wrote.
Another person said the new laws were cause for “concern”.
“People like me are committed to staying in Australia, contributing to the community and to the economy,” they said.
“We have been doing this for years, yet we are deeply saddened by the response of the Australian government to our efforts.”
Mr Dutton’s office was contacted for comment.