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Sudden surge of interviews threatens rights and lives

Friday, May 7 2021

After people being left in limbo for more than eight years, the Government has instigated a surge of interviews – without notice – for more than 1,100 people seeking protection under the Fast Track process to be completed by an arbitrary deadline of 30 June.

With only two weeks’ notice, people are being called up for an interview with a Department of Home Affairs officer to decide their final fate.

With thanks to Matt Golding for permission to use this image.

The challenge

At these interviews, people must detail why they fled, what they fear – and prove their case for refugee protection. For many, this is a traumatic and harrowing experience.

These time frames will deprive many people of the chance to access the legal help they need – and a real and fair opportunity to prepare and present their case.

Legal help is absolutely essential for people to effectively present their case. Without it, it’s a recipe for failure, which violates rights and endangers lives.

To be clear: our concern is not that the Government has finally resumed processing after the 1 October 2017 ‘lodge or leave’ deadline for applications; far from it – it’s long overdue. Our concern is the way it’s being done. These arbitrary and unnecessary time frames will compromise fairness and deny justice.

These people, who have suffered in limbo for so long, deserve a fair go before the law.

Our response

We – together with sector partners – have raised our profound concerns with the Government about the dangers of this sudden surge, and have proposed a set of practical measures to strike the right balance between fairness and efficiency – that is, how to achieve a fairer process. Despite the lack of progress thus far, we will continue to advocate for change while protecting the rights of people seeking our help.

People like Ahmed*, Sara and their three children, who arrived in Australia by boat in 2012, after fleeing in fear from Iran. Ahmed – a Kurdish activist – was routinely tortured, imprisoned and locked in solitary confinement for months on end at the hands of the Iranian security forces. In 2016, four years after arriving, they were finally allowed to apply for protection and were able to do so with our help. The delays have taken a terrible toll on their mental and physical health. Just this month, after waiting another four years and with just two weeks notice, they were finally called for an interview. They panicked. They then called us in desperate need of help.

In the face of this sudden surge, we are urgently mobilising our legal team– together with lawyers from many of our 16 pro bono corporate law firm partners – to scale-up our services so we can help as many people as is humanly possible by 30 June. This vital legal help will prepare people for interview and complete updated claims and submissions for lodgement.

We will continue to rise to these latest challenges and defend to the end the rights and lives of people seeking our help.

David Manne
Executive Director and Principal Solicitor
Refugee Legal

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