7 September 2021
Today the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has launched a Afghanistan Legal Clinic to assist people from Afghanistan currently in Australia with seeking visa pathways for loved ones left behind in Afghanistan or stranded in third countries.
The clinic is generously supported by pro bono law firms and lawyer volunteers. Maurice Blackburn and Gadens law firms will host the legal triage service to provide information, referral and to assess legal needs. Several other law firms and around 100 lawyers have also volunteered to provide legal assistance with visa applications through appointments in the legal clinic.
The demand for information and legal help has been overwhelming. In the past two weeks ASRC has received around 400 calls and over 100 emails per day from people from Afghanistan in Australia, desperate for information and help to bring family members to safety.
While this clinic will provide greater access to existing visa pathways, it cannot address the multiple obstacles imposed by the Government, which continue to prevent many people from Afghanistan in Australia from having a realistic pathway to bring their loved ones to safety.
The current allocation of 3,000 humanitarian visa places, within the already reduced refugee intake cap, to people in Afghanistan is completely inadequate and significantly less than the 20,000 additional places provided by countries like Canada.
Furthermore, refugees now on permanent visas from Afghanistan who arrived in Australia by sea face discrimination in family reunion with their applications deliberately deprioritised, preventing most from ever being considered, while temporary protection visa holders are ineligible to even apply for family reunion or to propose relatives under the special humanitarian visa categories.
Dr Carolyn Graydon, Principal Solicitor and Manager of the Human Rights Law Program said: “There’s no way that we could handle this level of need on our own, and it has been just fantastic to see such a huge groundswell of support from the legal profession offering to provide assistance at this time of great need for people from Afghanistan.”
“We continue to hear tragic stories of preventable deaths of wives or children who have died in Afghanistan while their husband and father in Australia has been helpless to assist them, due to the cruelty of the temporary visa regime designed to permanently split families apart.”
“Australian Afghanistan community members also face a morass of red tape, including visa processing times of several years, costly visa application fees (nearly $8000 to sponsor a spouse and nearly $3000 for a child), and cumbersome visa lodgement requirements, requiring some visa applications to be lodged by courier to the Australian Embassy in Amman, Jordan.”
“For people from Afghanistan already in Australia, Government policy deliberately deprioritises family reunion applications made by permanent resident refugees who originally arrived by sea, as part of its punitive suite of laws. The family is the fundamental unit of our society and is deserving of special support and protection. This is not only about decency, compassion and humanity, but the right to family reunion is also recognised under international law, highlighting yet another massive shortfall in Australian law which fails to meet basic international standards.”
Jana Favero, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at the ASRC said: “The legal profession is certainly doing its part to swing behind the Afghanistan Australian community during this time of great need. It’s time that the Government did so as well.”
“Many of these obstacles could be instantly removed to provide actual, not illusive, pathways to safety for relatives in danger.”
“For a Government which claims to care about families and family values, it’s time we saw some policies and action to reflect this.”
Jacob Varghese, CEO of Maurice Blackburn said: “So many of us look at the TV and feel powerless to help. But through their practical work and advocacy the ASRC turned that despair into action. Maurice Blackburn is pleased to support our employees to work with the ASRC to help secure safety for as many people from Afghanistan as possible.”
Mark Pistilli, CEO of Gadens said: “Gadens is proud to be doing our part to support the vulnerable men, women and children who have been impacted by the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. The ASRC is doing incredible work to meet the demand for legal assistance and the new Afghanistan clinic has received a lot of interest and support from our staff.”
ENDSLeave a reply