Volunteers in Western Australia have recorded more than 9,000 hours for the Humanitarian Group’s ‘A Fair Go for Asylum Seekers Temporary Protection Visa Project’ (TPV Project) in the 2015-16 financial year alone.
The TPV Project is a collaboration between:
- the Humanitarian Group;
- volunteer legal and administrative officers;
- pro bono lawyers provided by local law firms;
- SCALES, a community legal centre that has accepted approximately 40 referrals from the TPV Project; and
- Law Access, the Western Australian pro bono referral organisation, which refers requests for judicial review advice and assistance from unsuccessful TPV applicants through the Lawyers 4 Refugees Network.
There are approximately 2,000 people currently living in Western Australia who arrived by boat between August 2012 and December 2013, according to data compiled by the Humanitarian Group. Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) were reintroduced by the Australian Government in December 2014, as part of a “fast track” assessment process to determine the eligibility of asylum seekers for protection visas in Australia. The process for applying is not simple, however. The forms are 40 pages long, include 102 questions, require accompanying statements, and must be completed in English.
Only very limited legal assistance is available to applicants, and fast track applications do not have access to the Migration and Refugee Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a full merits review if refused. Rather, any review of a refusal is referred to the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA), which provides a more limited form of review, usually concentrating solely on the previously prepared application documents.
The complexity of the forms and the English language requirement, combined with the limited avenues for appeal, mean that there is a strong need for legal assistance when completing these applications.
In the last financial year over 650 people attended information sessions across ten language groups, and over 160 were helped at regular clinics to complete their protection applications, including completing the forms and drafting statements. Without adequate legal assistance the integrity of the visa process can be compromised, leaving vulnerable groups at risk.
For more information on the TPV Project, or to volunteer, please contact the Humanitarian Group.