Last December I was lucky enough to intern at Refugee Legal for two months. I am glad and thankful that I had the opportunity to work with the staff and volunteers at Refugee Legal. As a former refugee from Afghanistan, I really understand the importance of this work for people in need of protection. I met some incredible people whose love and compassion extend beyond borders, skin colour, and race. People who approach their work with the requisite professionalism and sensitivity, knowing that they are there to support people who have not had easy lives. Knowing that they are supporting people who are still healing from the wounds of the past, struggling with the hardship of the present and the uncertainty of the future.
I met many people seeking asylum who came to Refugee Legal for assistance. I heard many stories of trauma and survival. Stories of forced displacement, separation from family and uncertainty. Stories of fear.
I also heard stories of hope for a brighter future, and faith in humanity.
When I was ‘shadowing’ a lawyer who was assisting a person seeking asylum with her application, she said; “I would not have left home, if I did not have to”. These are the exact words that I have heard from many refugees, including my own father.
My supervisor at Refugee Legal, Charlie Powles, once said to me; “the only evidence a person seeking protection has is herself and her story”. Presenting their story in a written application is the only chance that people seeking asylum have at safety and survival. Just think about how important this right is. Given that this evidence is a person’s only chance at survival, there is no need for me to explain how important it is that she is able to present this evidence in her claim for protection in a professional, consistent, credible and clear manner.
I applaud Refugee Legal for providing legal help and security to people seeking asylum. For giving them the opportunity to present their evidence in a cogent way, sensitively helping them to articulate their stories and allowing them to exercise their fundamental right to protection.
Kobra is undertaking a double major in law and international relations at La Trobe University. She dreams of becoming a human rights lawyer.
P.S. The Sidney Myer Fund has now offered to match donations to Refugee Legal, up to $180,000. Over the last week, Refugee Legal has raised $325,172 thanks to many generous donors and Gandel Philanthropy’s matching. The Federal Government’s “Lodge or Leave” announcement means that there are around 4,000 people in Victoria alone who urgently need legal help to apply for refugee protection by the new deadline of 1 October 2017. People who miss this deadline could be deported without the Government even hearing their cases for protection.
DONATE NOW to help Refugee Legal reach their appeal target of $500,000 before 30 June and have your donation matched dollar for dollar to assist these vulnerable people.