Legal help for Afghans
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.