Why there is an urgent need for funds for legal support
(The following case study contains changed names and details in order to protect privacy)
Pramesh and Aarini came from Sri Lanka by boat to seek safety in Australia in 2013. Pramesh’s older brother was recruited by the Tamil Tigers as a teenager, in order to fight for the rights of the Tamil people. Aarini had attended some student activist rallies to protest the government’s discrimination against Tamil people. For these reasons, they were each taken into custody a number of times by Sri Lankan military and security forces and interrogated. These interrogation sessions always involved serious harm and torture in an attempt to extract information from them, which they did not usually have. Fearing that their safety would always be at risk, they fled Sri Lanka.
As exit visas are required in order to leave Sri Lanka, and Pramesh and Aarini were both on the ‘interest’ list of the Sri Lankan government, it was not possible for them to leave via plane. The only way for them to leave undetected, was by boat. Pramesh explained, “Staying in Sri Lanka meant more torture and death. Getting on a boat gave us a chance to live.”
When Pramesh and Aarini arrived in Australia, they were forced by the Government to wait more than three years to lodge their application for asylum. It was very difficult for them, especially for Aarini, to speak of their experiences. They wanted to talk to as few people as possible, and so chose a Migration Agent who spoke their language, eliminating the need for an interpreter. Unfortunately the Migration Agent did not have experience with protection visa applications, and their application was rejected.
Pramesh and Aarini decided to seek the assistance of an experienced refugee lawyer to provide a submission to the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA). With only 21 days allowed for submissions, they had to act quickly. However, they did not have the available funds to pay for the legal work (free refugee legal services usually only assist with initial applications and not with IAA work or court work). The Combined Refugee Action Group, through donations received from the community, was able to pay $1500 of their legal bill. They were then able access a refugee lawyer immediately, who assisted them to provide further detail and explanation of the claims they had already made.
If the original decision is upheld by the IAA, the only avenue for appeal is through the Federal Circuit Court (people subject to the new ‘Fast Track’ determination process do not have access to a Refugee Review Tribunal). This is very costly, and more funds will be needed if a court appeal is necessary. Pramesh and Aarini know that they will be handed directly to security forces if they are forced to return to Sri Lanka. They now have a three year old son. It is a matter of life and death for this lovely family.
Through generous donations from the Geelong community, CRAG has been able to assist people like Pramesh and Aarini with 17 different matters over the past 12 months, totalling over $24,000. These matters have included lawyer attendance at interviews; post-interview submissions; IAA submissions; and Federal Circuit Court appeals. Several people assisted have made repayments to the CRAG Legal Fund to allow some funds to be re-used to assist others. In order to act with the necessary speed when a need arises, it is essential that CRAG maintains a reasonable float in the fund.
People’s lives may depend on this.
Donate funds for the legal support of refugees
By Electronic Transfer:
Combined Refugee Action Group Legal Fund
BSB: 033226 Account Number: 531593
Combined Refugee Action Group, C/- Geelong Trades Hall, 127 Myers St, Geelong.
Note: CRAG does not have charity status, so donations are unfortunately not tax-deductible
Donations of items
Donations of non-perishable food items, toiletries and supermarket vouchers can be made to the Asylum Seeker Food Bank @ The Welcome Place. Information on how to donate can found here: Welcome Place Asylum Seeker Food Bank
Donations of pre-loved furniture in good condition can be made to Geelong Refugee Assistance Program
Donations of pre-loved baby and children’s clothing and items in good condition can be made to Geelong Mums
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