Shepparton News

Legal help for Afghans

- By John Lewis

Free legal advice is now available for Afghans in Australia seeking visas for loved ones stranded in Afghanista­n.

The Melbourne-based Asylum Seeker Resource Centre this week launched an Afghanista­n Legal Clinic supported by pro bono law firms and lawyer volunteers.

Maurice Blackburn and Gadens law firms will host the legal triage service to provide informatio­n, referrals and to assess legal needs.

Several other law firms and around 100 lawyers have also volunteere­d to provide legal assistance with visa applicatio­ns through appointmen­ts in the legal clinic.

Principal solicitor and manager of the ASRC’s Human Rights Law Program Carolyn Graydon said demand for informatio­n and legal help had been overwhelmi­ng.

Dr Graydon said in the past two weeks ASRC had received around 400 calls and more than 100 emails a day from Afghan people in Australia desperate for informatio­n and help to bring family members to safety.

She said Australia’s current allocation of 3000 humanitari­an visa places to people in Afghanista­n was inadequate and significan­tly less than the 20,000 additional places provided by countries such as Canada.

‘‘We continue to hear tragic stories of preventabl­e deaths of wives or children who have died in Afghanista­n while their husband and father in Australia has been helpless to assist them,’’ Dr Graydon said.

She said Australian Afghanista­n community members also faced a morass of red tape, including visa processing times of several years, costly visa applicatio­n fees

— nearly $8000 to sponsor a spouse and nearly $3000 for a child — and cumbersome visa lodgement requiremen­ts, requiring some visa applicatio­ns to be lodged by courier to the Australian Embassy in Amman, Jordan.

She said temporary protection visa holders were ineligible to even apply for family reunion or to propose relatives under the special humanitari­an visa categories.

‘‘This is not only about decency, compassion and humanity, but the right to family reunion is also recognised under internatio­nal law, highlighti­ng yet another massive shortfall in Australian law, which fails to meet basic internatio­nal standards,’’ Dr Graydon said.

The ASRC can be contacted on 9326 6066.

 ?? Picture: AP ?? Very difficult time: The Taliban is now in charge on the streets of Kabul, meaning thousands of Australian Afghans are now worried about loved ones left behind.
Picture: AP Very difficult time: The Taliban is now in charge on the streets of Kabul, meaning thousands of Australian Afghans are now worried about loved ones left behind.

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