We are Australia’s largest provider of free specialist legal assistance to people seeking asylum, refugees and disadvantaged migrants.
We advise, assist, educate and advocate.
Their greatest need is for legal permission to stay in safety in Australia, and to reunite with family. That’s what we focus on.
Our distinctive approach combines legal assistance that is both direct and strategic.
Refugee Legal provides substantial legal advice and casework service for asylum seekers, refugees and disadvantaged migrants in the community and in immigration detention in Victoria and across Australia. Last year our total client assistance was 14,146. The legal services we provide include:
- Telephone Advice Line
- Evening Advice Service
- Day time casework, including full legal representation
- Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) Clinics
- Strategic ‘test case’ litigation
- Client and community information sessions
All of Refugee Legal advice and casework and strategic litigation services are free.
Our work involves
Direct client work
Refugee Legal staff lawyers advise and represent clients from diverse backgrounds. Our lawyers also train and supervise a large team of volunteer lawyers and registered migration agents, students and other paralegals. Our lawyers and volunteers provide:
- a telephone advice service
- one off face-to-face advice at a weekly evening service
- legal clinics, and
- group information sessions.
The range of casework and advice undertaken by Refugee Legal is broad and diverse. It includes:
- applications for Protection Visas (refugee status or complementary protection) in Australia
- applications and sponsorship under the Family Stream, including of spouse, fiance, children and other family members
- applications for change of status for those seeking permanent residence in Australia
- advice to people seeking to propose people overseas under the Refugee and Special Humanitarian Program, including for family reunion
- advice to people held in immigration detention, including local and remote detention centres
- advice on all other migration visa categories, including re-entry or return visas
- advice on conditions attached to visas, such as permission to work, Medicare eligibility and ‘no further stay’
- representation in cases before the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP)
- representation in cases before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) (Migration and Refugee Division) on refugee, complementary protection and migration refusals
- representation before the AAT on visa cancellation and refusals on ‘character’ grounds
- advice on other visa cancellation matters
- advice to over-stayers and other ‘unlawful non-citizens’
- initiating ‘test case’ litigation in the High Court of Australia and lower courts
- referrals for legal advice and representation on appeals to the Courts, including to the Federal Circuit Court, Federal Court or High Court of Australia, and
- targeted referral for counselling and assistance on related health and welfare issues such as accommodation, medical care, social security, and counselling for torture and trauma survivors.
Strategic work for change
Refugee Legal, with key partners, brings test cases on a strategic basis before the High Court of Australia. In recent years, we’ve succeeded for clients in ten out of ten High Court cases, the benefits flowing to many thousands of other people seeking asylum. Our strategic approach identifies systemic injustices through our unique experience of direct work for thousands of clients each year. We also seek to influence the local, national and international public debates about the rights and humane treatment of refugees and migrants. We advocate extensively in the public arena for refugee and migrant rights under international obligations. Our strategic work for change takes a principled stand to challenge unfair operational decisions and systemic injustices. Refugee Legal also promotes – through ideas and action – a real dialogue about better alternatives to Australia’s current inhumane policies, violations of international human rights law, and harsh and harmful governmental practices.
Education and training
Refugee Legal is one of the leading providers in Australia of education and training in all aspects of Australia’s refugee and immigration program. Our activities in this area are focused on professional training and development, and community education. Professional Training and Development For almost two decades, Refugee Legal has been one of the largest providers of training and professional development activities for migration agents and lawyers. Our key programs are delivered by some of Australia’s leading practitioners in the field. They include:
- Continuing Professional Development Seminars are run regularly throughout the year. Topics are wide-ranging, with a focus on practical guidance and key updates.
- Full or half day training programs for non-legal professionals on Australia refugee and migration legal and processing frameworks.
- Workshops for legal and non-legal professionals on specific issues tailored to required needs.
Community Education Refugee Legal seeks to develop knowledge, build capacity and raise awareness by:
- providing information sessions and presentations to community groups
- providing advice and training to community organisations and workers, and community groups
- providing guest lectures on refugee and migration law and policy at some of Australia’s leading universities
- hosting law students or law graduates on placements and internships, and
- presentation of speeches at public forums.
Refugee Legal: Digest Refugee Legal: Digest is a special monthly subscription based service providing essential and comprehensive updates on migration and refugee case law. It is prepared our experienced in-house lawyers, and includes practical tips.