Asylum seekers 'being denied legal aid'

Asylum seekers being held in immigration detention in Darwin are reportedly being denied legal aid.

The Northern Immigration Detention Centre in Darwin - AAP.jpg

Darwin detention centre.

Refugee advocates claim asylum seekers being held in immigration detention in Darwin are being denied legal assistance as they attempt to apply for refugee status in Australia.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre says detainees are no longer being offered access to the government-funded service.

The de-funding of the free legal advice is a key part of the Coalition's asylum seeker policy.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said kits will be provided to assist detainees in filling out their own forms.

But the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre's Kon Karapanagiotidis says the forms are complex and that specific assistance is needed to overcome language and cultural barriers.

"When you're trying to fill in a protection visa application that only comes in English that is complex and difficult, you're vulnerable, you're in detention you're most likely traumatised, you're most likely a victim of torture," he told SBS Radio.

"And then miraculously you're supposed to prepare your own case, it's not going to happen."

(Click on audio tab above to listen to the full interview)

He says the claims of the legal assistance being denied have come directly from the asylum seekers themselves.

"We have heard this directly from asylum seekers telling us they've now been handed protection visa forms and told: 'If you want to apply for asylum you can do it by yourself, we're no longer going to provide you with access to migration agents'.

"We were always wondering how soon it would happen. It's a stated Liberal Party policy that they would be scrapping the entire scheme...We were expecting it to happen a lot later - because in speaking to the the people who have these contracts - of which there are a number across Australia - most had at least a year on their contracts before they could scrap them."

2 min read
Published 20 November 2013 at 9:16pm
Source: World News Australia