Legal clinic struggles

A FREE one-of-a-kind legal clinic for WA asylum seekers could face closure unless emergency funds are raised, says Humanitarian Group CEO Helen Pearce.

The Abbott government axed legal funding for ‘irregular maritime arrivals’ in 2014, leaving asylum seekers in WA to muddle through complex visa application forms on their own.

Relying heavily on volunteers and philanthropic grants HG launched the Temporary Protection Visa project in 2015, and has helped over 2000 people negotiate Australia’s TPV process, which includes a 38 page form and 102 detailed personal questions in English (rarely an asylum seeker’s first language).

Many of the grants which funded the clinic have now been exhausted, so in partnership with Curtin’s centre for human rights education HG is crowdfunding $80,000 to help the 140 people on its waiting list.

• Humanitarian Group solicitor Katy Welch and senior solicitor Kathy Bogoyev.

• Humanitarian Group solicitor Katy Welch and senior solicitor Kathy Bogoyev.

Ms Pearce says that without their service many asylum seekers, who have valid protection claims, risk being deported simply because the forms submitted to the department of immigration are poorly filled in.

“Australia’s protection application process has become increasingly complex in recent years,” Ms Pearce says.

“This makes it difficult to understand for people who come from different legal cultures and do not speak the language of the decision-makers.

“Without adequate legal assistance, the integrity of the visa process can be compromised, and people who are in need of protection can be wrongfully returned to the persecution and harm from which they originally fled.

Human rights

“We’re already running on negative so we’re at a point where if this is not successful, we will not be able to provide this free service.”

The crowdfunding campaign will be launched after a public lecture at Curtin university by former high court judge Michael Kirby, a doyen of human rights law in Australia.

Mr Kirby’s lecture will be held at 6.30 pm, February 17, at Curtin’s centre for human rights education.

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