Asylum seekers – an excruciating process

Slow track to dawn: Asylum seekers submit their futures on an excruciating process

By Michael Gordon – The Age – 10 March 2017

Nasir* waited almost five years for the chance to state his case for being given refugee status and protection in Australia. Then he had just a single day to nail it.

If the 29-year-old Rohingyan felt the pressure as he sat across the desk from a lawyer two years his junior in a Collingwood office on a sunny autumn day this week, it did not show.

As Nasir’s words were interpreted, David Burke, whose day job is in insurance litigation at Lander & Rogers, one of Melbourne’s leading commercial law firms, took the notes that he would draw on to prepare Nasir’s statement seeking protection.

Like Nasir, Burke had no illusions about the importance of this day. “You are sitting across the desk from somebody and you know that this is their one opportunity to tell their story and to get it right – and that their future hangs in the balance,” he says.

The same goes for other corporate lawyers from 12 firms, who leave their offices in the city each Tuesday to work pro bono at this clinic, preparing applications for a group of asylum seekers who are known as the “legacy caseload”.

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‘This is breaking people’: visa deadline

‘This is breaking people’: visa deadline stress strains asylum services

Refugee advocates say volunteers are pouring in to help asylum seekers living in Australia who have been told to finalise applications within days or weeks

Ben Doherty – The Guardian – 9 March 2017

Thousands of lawyers, paralegals and interpreters across Australia have responded to new deadlines imposed upon asylum seekers to apply for protection, volunteering their time and expertise to help people at risk of being left destitute or deported.

Refugee advocacy organisations say asylum seekers are coming to their doors suicidal, and “broken” by the new demands.

At Melbourne’s Asylum Seeker Resource Centre alone, volunteer lawyers, paralegals and interpreters worked 26 hours at the weekend to lodge applications for asylum seekers facing looming cut-off dates. Volunteers at Sydney’s Refugee Advice and Casework Service have been working 18-hour shifts while Australia’s legal fraternity has volunteered hundreds of hours of pro bono assistance.

About 25,000 asylum seekers are living in Australia on bridging visas as their claims for protection are processed, more than 10 times the number of people held on offshore detention islands.

In an effort to move those people through the sclerotic “fast-track” process, the department of immigration has sent out hundreds of letters demanding applications – complex 60-page forms that must be completed in English – be finalised within 60 or 30 or 14 days.

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 woman looking through a gap in the curtains

Demands for complex applications to be completed within as little as 14 days are pushing asylum seekers into despair, say service providers. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo