The primary function of a refugee determination process is to identify those entitled to protection as refugees and to grant those people the chance to rebuild their lives.
Australia’s asylum assessment system is not functioning to deliver this goal, especially in relation to the limited group of approximately 30,000 people who arrived by sea mainly between 2012-2013.
This is a finite group as they are the last ones permitted to apply onshore for protection but were then subject to special laws designed to be punitive to deter future boat arrivals.
More than six years later, 15,000 people have been found to be refugees but only granted temporary protection for three or five years, for which they must re-apply at expiry, indefinitely.
This denies them reunion with families and pathways to economic independence through employment, training and study.
This broken process is not serving the Australian Government, employers or social services and it’s definitely not working for the people seeking asylum and refugees entitled to protection, nor the families they are separated from.
The process lacks basic legal safeguards to ensure fairness and correct decision outcomes.
There is very limited free legal assistance to help people prepare their applications, creating major problems that cannot be later fixed.
Those refused by the Department can then be rejected by the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) without even having an interview or hearing and are prevented from putting further information forward, unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist.
A small group of people arrived up to ten years ago and have not even been allowed to lodge an application yet.
Others have their cases bouncing back and forth between different stages, increasing in difficulty and through decline in people’s mental health caused by trauma and despair at the abyss they find themselves in.
There’s also a small group in indefinite immigration detention, including children and vulnerable people.
Another 9,000 people have not even had their primary applications assessed by the Department six or seven years after they arrived. In effect, they are still back at the starting line on bridging visas with inconsistent and arbitrary conditions.
Some are denied work rights, study rights and access to a safety net of income support and Medicare, forcing them to live in extreme poverty and fully dependent on charity for years on end. Some have no bridging visas at all due to delays in renewal.
It’s time for the broken and costly process for this group to end.