Everyone deserves to feel safe. But the Australian Government’s ‘Fast Track’ policy introduced in December 2015 drastically changes the refugee determination process. This includes re-introducing temporary protection visas, removing a fair review process and very short time frames for lodging applications.
The government also cut 85% of funding for legal services to assist people with their application for protection. Now, the government has changed the rules again, forcing people to lodge their applications within tight time frames, and combined with the long wait lists for free legal assistance due to government cuts, people are being forced to lodge their application without any legal advice or support.
The Fast Track policy affects those that arrived by sea between 12 August 2012 and 31 December 2013, which includes 24,500 people, over 4395 of whom are children.
Fast facts about ‘Fast Track’:
- As of March 2017, 11,887 are currently undergoing the ‘Fast Track’ process
- There are still 8,971 people seeking asylum yet to apply for asylum under ‘Fast Track’
- Of the 3,899 applications that have been finalised so far, 1051 or approximately 30% have been refused
- Since the implementation of ‘Fast Track’ the refusal rate has grown from 5% to nearly 30%.
- With a 30% refusal rate in the ‘Fast Track’ system, it means approximately 3,000 people across the country this Christmas and twice that by Christmas 2018 – including children born in Australia – could be destitute.
- Once rejected, people seeking asylum won’t have access to income support, welfare and Medicare, and may be denied the right to work in Australia for two years or more while they appeal the decision
- This process removes references to the Refugee Convention from Australia’s migration legislation
- Under current law they will only be eligible to apply for either a TPV (Temporary Protection Visa) or a SHEV (Safe Haven Enterprise Visa) which only lasts 3 or 5 years. Even if successful people will have to apply for protection again.
- The 40 page application contains 101 questions and is only available in English and requires that applicants accurately specify their place of residence and work and study details for their entire life since birth
More on ‘Fast Track’
When any of us deal with law we expect that we will have a fair chance to present our case and be treated with dignity. For people seeking asylum who arrived by sea, this is not the case.
The Fast Track refugee determination process is complex and difficult, and an error can have grave consequences. These risks are heightened by the very tight time frames being applied by Fast Track policy and means there is a high risk that refugees and other people in need of protection will be returned to face persecution or other significant harm.
And these risks are now even greater because people seeking asylum seekers no longer entitled to funded legal assistance.
For 24,500 people, they face a new system:
- that has altered the legal definition of who is a refugee, further diminishing the United Nation’s definition of a refugee
- which removes the right to meaningful review of their case
- that requires people to fill in an application form over 40 pages long and only available in English
- even if successful, they will only be able to apply for temporary protection at the end of which they will need to reapply
Limitations of temporary protection
Under current law they will only be eligible to apply for either a TPV (Temporary Protection Visa) or a SHEV (Safe Haven Enterprise Visa):
- TPV’s are valid for up to three years
- SHEVs are valid for up to five years if you work or study full time or a combination of the two in a regional area for at least 3.5 years
- in both cases people cannot sponsor family to come to Australia
- they are unable to travel back to see family in their home country
- they cannot apply for permanent protection on a TPV
Even if successful in being granted asylum, people can be waiting in limbo for years. They will not know when they are next going to see their family, whether they are going to stay here in Australia, and what their future will bring.
How the ASRC is responding
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is dedicating maximum resources towards lodging as many applications as possible, helping thousands of people seeking asylum to in Victoria by offering language-specific legal workshops and personalised legal support which is needed to complete the mandatory 40-page application form, together with a detailed statement of their refugee claims.
The impact of this process on people and families seeking asylum is that they will be waiting in limbo for years. They will not know when next they will see their family, whether they are going to stay here in Australia and what their future will bring.
Please help the ASRC offer people seeking asylum a fair chance to be heard. Make a tax-deductible donation today.