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Asylum seekers 'scared' as deadline nears


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Asylum seekers are experiencing high levels of stress as they try to get their protection visa applications submitted by the looming October 1 deadline.

In late May, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton set the non-negotiable deadline for unauthorised maritime arrivals to make a protection claim, telling them if they didn’t comply they could face the threat of deportation.

The Refugee Advocacy Service of SA said that people seeking asylum who hadn’t yet completed their protection visa applications were experiencing significant distress because of the threat of being excluded from applying – and potentially deported – if they missed the cut-off date. Each application takes a minimum of six hours to complete with professional assistance, and many applicants cannot afford to pay for advice.

RASSA Chair Taruna Heuzenroeder said the service was “on track” to complete all applications by the deadline, partly because a number of clients on the waiting list had withdrawn when they came under pressure to lodge their applications quickly.

“We hope that those applicants have sought commercial assistance, but we are concerned that they will experience financial stress if they are unable to access free services,” she said.

“All RASSA clients have to pass a means test for pro bono assistance, so we know that their access to funds is very limited. It may be that they have been able to access financial support from groups such as Circle of Friends, or from extended family networks, but we do worry that they may have taken on loans in order to access commercial migration assistance.”

Ms Heuzenroeder added although South Australia was “better placed” than its eastern states counterparts to meet the deadline, the Minister’s ultimatum was still having an impact here.

“People are pretty scared at the moment. There is a high level of anxiety and stress with this group,” she said.

“It’s not as bad as in the eastern states because there is not the same sort of numbers involved, but there definitely are pressures.”

As applications are lodged, Ms Heuzenroeder said the focus for the service was shifting to post-lodgement assistance.

“Even if all applications are lodged by October 1 (which is unlikely given the waiting lists interstate), the process of assessing the applications will take some time to complete.

“We are now fundraising like crazy so the service can keep going beyond the end of the calendar year when our current grant finishes. That will mean we can provide assistance to people who have been requested to supply additional information or documentation at interview stage.

“We’ve also started taking referrals for people whose applications have been refused and are seeking a review in the Immigration Assessment Authority.”

Ms Heuzenroeder said often applications were refused due to asylum seekers providing allegedly fake documents and it was imperative these people gained professional advice. Provision of documents that were found to be false could result not only in the visa application being refused, but in the applicant losing their right to appeal.


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