Free legal help for asylum seekers to meet looming 1 Oct deadline

13 Sep 2017

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Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton (AAP)

SBS World News Radio: Refugee advocates are again warning of grave consequences for asylum seekers who miss the looming deadline to apply for protection visas.

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A potentially life-changing race is on for asylum seekers who haven't yet lodged their applications for Temporary Protection visas (TPV) or Safe Haven Enterprise visas (SHEV).

Approximately 30,500 people in Australia who arrived by boat from August 2012 have been eligible to apply.

While most have done so, Immigration and Border Protection figures show up to 1,500 people nationally are yet to lodge their applications.

David Manne, Executive Director of Refugee Legal, explains why.

"One of the central reasons is really terrible vulnerability. Extreme vulnerability that many people experience having fled in fear for their lives from their home country, from places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Rohingya from Myanmar. One of the key reasons for why some people have not yet applied has been not only that they have been confused but that they have also been very frightened about the process."

The pressure is now on for them to apply before October 1, with the federal government announcing the new deadline just months ago, on May 21.

It prompted lawyers and interpreters across Australia to come forward and offer unpaid help for asylum seekers with their visa applications.

David Manne from Refugee Legal was one of those.

He says the application document is complicated and onerous and it's critical people get the free legal assistance available.

"There are forms with over 100 questions, plus a detailed written statement of someone's fears that have to be lodged all in writing and all in English."

Immigration and Border Protection says it will be assumed those who do not apply before the deadline no longer intend to seek protection in Australia.

And Mr Manne says they will face harsh consequences.

"First, they face the prospect of the government not considering any protection visa application in the future. So that is not allowing people to apply for protection as a refugee in Australia. And also ultimately, they face the risk of being deported without even having their case for protection heard."

He says it's not too late to apply and is urging anyone who still needs legal help to come forward.

"It is absolutely essential that if anyone in this group hasn't yet applied, that they seek that legal help, free legal assistance to understand their rights and to make that application."

Applications can be lodged online and via post.

However, if your application is lodged by post, enough time has be allowed for the application to be received by the Immigation Department before October 1.

 

Visit https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Refu/Illegal-maritime-arrivals# for further information and information in 12 other languages.

 

Free legal help to prepare and lodge protection visa applications can be sought from a number of specialist legal agencies around the country, including the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre clinic@refugeelegal.org.au or (03) 9413 0101

 

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