Asylum seeker Neil Para granted permanent residency after 1,000km walk from Ballarat to Sydney

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – As he neared the end of his 1,000-kilometre walk to Sydney to raise awareness for thousands of families living in limbo as they seek permanent residency, asylum seeker Neil Para and his family have been granted theirs.

Mr Para, his wife, and three daughters lived in the regional Victorian city of Ballarat for more than nine years with no right to work or study, or Medicare access, after fleeing civil war in Sri Lanka in 2008.

But on Friday, Mr Para and his family were granted permanent residency.

The family’s immigration lawyer, Carina Ford, said the family was granted visas near the end of Mr Para’s walk.

She said each case was determined individually.

“It’s a really pleasing decision. The main thing with Neil is that he has been such a great community man for the town of Ballarat,” Ms Ford said.

“It is great to see he has been granted permanent residency, [it] means the family can move on.”

Mr Para said he was “grateful” for the decision and sure his children would “follow their dream”.

“My family feels humbled … We promise that we will contribute to Australia.”

He said refugees had a lot to offer the country.

“One day I hope all will be free.”

Mr Para set off from Ballarat with well-wishes from a crowd of supporters on August 1 and was due to arrive at Enmore Park in Sydney on September 10 for a celebration picnic after completing the final 6km stretch with his family.

There are about 12,500 people who have lived in Australia for more than a decade, but are ineligible to apply for permanent residency under the new Resolution of Status visa.

About 2,500 have no visa at all.

Mr Para planned to deliver a petition containing more than 19,000 signatures to the prime minister’s office on Monday, calling on the federal government to end uncertainty for asylum seekers living in limbo.

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