Asylum seekers now face a ticking clock

28 February 2017
A new government deadline means a surge in demand for pro bono legal help

The legal landscape facing asylum seekers in Australia has been turbulent to say the least. For about 25,000 people who arrived here between 2012 and late 2013, when the government changed the rules, stating “no asylum seeker shall ever resettle in Australia”, this means a special kind of limbo. One that has become all the more challenging this week.

These people are the ‘legacy caseload’. Currently in Australia on Bridging Visas, they were granted permission to make applications less than 2 years ago, under a new ‘Fast Track’ process, which requires providing all documentation up-front, and offers little recourse in the face of rejection.

The government this week began notifying the 12,000 asylum seekers yet to make an application that they have 60 days to do so, they will lose their welfare payments, bridging visas and right to seek asylum.

The practical effect of this is an enormous increase in demand for legal help. The refugee legal sector is struggling to meet this demand, as is Justice Connect and our team of pro bono lawyers. This is placing increased pressure on already strained pro bono legal services to help clients who are in desperate need.

We are now faced with extremely anxious clients who are suddenly at risk of losing their opportunity to apply for protection. Missing out on this window means they could be deported to the country they are fleeing without even having their claims for protection assessed.

The added strain on pro bono legal services will result in some asylum seekers making applications without legal assistance. The application form is over 60 pages long and contain 184 questions, as well as a detailed legal statement outlining protection claims. The process is complicated enough for native English speakers. For people who have experienced trauma, fled persecution, and do not speak English, this process can be overwhelming.

Please support Justice Connect in our efforts to support these vulnerable people.