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Help needed for asylum seeker applications

Help needed for asylum seeker applications

By LIV Media

Access to Justice Asylum 

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The LIV is calling for assistance from the legal community to help deal with asylum seeker applications following the recent announcement by the federal government that applications must be lodged by 1 October 2017.

The "legacy caseload" refers to a group of around 24,500 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat between 13 August 2012 and 1 January 2014. These asylum seekers were barred from applying for asylum seeker status until 2015 when the Minister for Immigration began sending out letters inviting individuals to apply for temporary protection visas under a new application process labeled "fast track". At around the same time, the government cut the vast majority of legal funding for asylum seeker applicants, which meant that waitlists for pro bono legal assistance with community legal centres increased to over one year.

The Legacy Caseload Working Group was set up by the LIV in 2015 to help ensure access to justice for asylum seekers going through  this fast track process. The group has over 100 members, including representatives from Refugee Legal, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Justice Connect, Victoria Legal Aid and a wide range of private practitioners and other non-legal organisations. The Legacy Caseload Working Group’s efforts to help address the legacy caseload were recognised with the Access to Justice Award in the 13th Victorian Legal Awards on May 19.

Over the past two years the legal sector in Victoria has provided significant pro bono support to help process the legacy caseload. Weekend and after-hours legal clinics have been scaled up, with support from partnerships with private law firms and universities, and hundreds of applications are being lodged each month with assistance from volunteers.

However, substantial additional pressure has now been brought by the Immigration Minister’s announcement that any asylum seekers in the legacy caseload who have not lodged their application by October 1 will no longer be allowed to apply for protection, will be cut from government income support and will potentially be placed in immigration detention before being removed from Australia.

Around 4000 people living in Victoria have not yet lodged their application, the majority because they were previously barred from applying for protection for several years. They are now required to do so at extremely short notice, given the limited resources available

The required protection application is 41 pages long, with 101 questions that must be filled out in English. It is very complicated, taking between 10 to 15 hours to fill out. The LIV believes that legal representation is essential to ensure people seeking asylum have a fair chance of lodging their claims for protection.

With around 2000 people on the waiting lists for ASRC and Refugee Legal, the imposition of the October deadline has placed intense pressure on this sector to complete the applications. As it stands, it is unlikely that the legal sector will be able to meet the 1 October deadline, as clinics and applications have already been increased to maximum capacity.

Under international law, Australia is obliged to provide asylum seekers with an opportunity to fairly present their case for protection. This arbitrary deadline and the severe consequences of non-compliance risks people being removed to harm without an assessment of their protection claims.

Access to legal assistance for this cohort is crucial and the LIV will continue to support the important work of the Legacy Caseload Working Group and advocate for the government to provide a fair process for all asylum seekers.

How you can help

Paralegal/Administration secondees from law firms at a wide range of levels are needed to help the ASRC and Refugee Legal deal with the enormous volume of applications (full time preferred, or at least 3-4 days per week, for the next 3-4 months).

Lawyers, especially those with immigration law experience are also needed. The ASRC are calling for experienced volunteer lawyers and migration agents to assist at weekend Fast Track clinics. The next training session will be held on Monday 5 June from 6–9.30 pm at King & Wood Mallesons. If you are interested in volunteering please register your interest through this link: https://goo.gl/forms/kqiu9swfrxQ9VQYP2.   

Migration firms that are able to take on visa applications pro bono, please contact Alan Yang at Justice Connect (03 8636 4449, Alan.Yang@justiceconnect.org.au).

Administrative Resources are also needed to complete such applications. The ASRC and Refugee Legal would welcome donations of stationary (notepads and pens, as well as A4 express post envelopes to post applications). Refugee Legal is in desperate need of a new photocopier.

If you are interested in joining the Legacy Caseload Working Group, please email alhrsection@liv.asn.au.

Finally, donations to not-for-profit organisations working in this sector would be greatly appreciated:

Donate to Refugee Legal’s End of Financial Year Appeal

Donate to the ASRC’s Winter Appeal

 


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