Legal support for Afghan refugees
Refugees in Victoria will have access to free legal assistance through new Victorian Government funding worth almost $1 million.
The funding is aimed at helping families affected by the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
Recently, more than 2000 Afghan refugees have arrived in Victoria after being evacuated from Kabul in August. Many require supporting in lodging visa applications to bring family members to safety.
Most of money will go to independent community legal centre Refugee Legal – to work with pro bono lawyers from major firms and local multicultural communities – and resource an Afghanistan Legal Hotline and Legal Clinic.
The initiative is aimed at delivering extra administration, paralegal and legal resources to help meet increased demand for legal services and advice from the new Afghan arrivals and established Afghan communities.
The Hotline and Legal Clinic continue to provide advice for people in Victoria on bringing family members from Afghanistan (or third countries) to Australia, and for Afghans in Victoria who are on temporary visas or who have been refused refugee protection and are seeking reassessment of their protections claims.
Established in 1998, Refugee Legal provides not-for-profit expert legal advice and casework service via telephone and group information sessions for asylum seekers, refugees and disadvantaged migrants in the community and in immigration detention in Victoria and Australia.
Refugee Legal has previously delivered community information sessions and recruited, supervised and coordinated over 550 pro-bono legal practitioners to consult with over 14,000 clients.
The initiative is part of the almost $2.4 million the state government has announced this year to support the work of Refugee Legal.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ms Ros Spence said the state government was pleased to be able to help people fleeing conflict and persecution.
“Many Afghan Victorians continue to feel the effects of the terrible events unfolding in Afghanistan. This funding delivers more legal help for people dealing with the fallout of the situation there,” Ms Spence said
“I commend Refugee Legal for their tireless support for some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” she said
Refugee Legal Executive Director and Principal Solicitor David Manne said the extra funding was timely.
“Legal assistance is crucial to supporting refugees and migrants, especially during times of crisis. Victorian Government funding has made a major contribution to ensuring people receive the help they critically need,” Mr Mann said.
Afghan refugee ‘Nasir’ (not his real name) said he was desperate to bring family members to safety but was unsure how to apply for visas for them.
“My family is in danger in Afghanistan and I want to get them to safety. But I do not know how to apply for visas for them and I cannot afford to pay a lawyer. I hope this scheme will help me,” Nasir said.
The Victorian Budget 2021/22 contains $8.8 million for essential programs that streamline settlement for humanitarian arrivals and support migrant communities.
The move comes as Afghans evacuated to Australia during the Taliban takeover in August will have their emergency sub-class 449 visas extended for a year, allowing them continued access to government support while they apply for permanent protection visas.
Thousands of sub-class 449 visa-holders still in Afghanistan will be assisted to apply for other visas when their existing visas expire, the federal government has said,
People impacted by the Afghanistan crisis and needing legal assistance can call Refugee Legal on (03) 9413 0166, from 9:00am to 5:00pm on Monday to Friday. Further information is available at refugeelegal.org.au.