The Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT) expresses its concern that the Australian Government has imposed a deadline of 1 October 2017 for people who arrived by boat without a valid visa during the past five years to submit their applications for protection, and that people who do not do so may not have valid claims to be recognised as refugees.
FASSTT is a network of Australia’s eight specialist rehabilitation agencies that work with survivors of torture and trauma of refugee backgrounds. The majority of our clients were resettled to Australian under the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. Many others applied for asylum after arrival.
In our experience, people seeking asylum are committed to having their visa status resolved quickly and fairly. There are a number of reasons why people seeking asylum who arrived without valid visas may not have lodged their claims for protection and there should not be a presumption that the time taken to do so reflects on the validity of those claims. For many the government did not raise the bar to applications until recently. People have lived with profound uncertainty and limited resources adversely affecting their wellbeing. The provision of government funded legal advice for people to prepare their applications, which are complex, has been severely reduced. That makes people reliant on either paying for private agents (which is prohibitively expensive for many) or obtaining free assistance from voluntary agencies, who have lengthy waiting lists. They are quite understandably anxious that attempting to apply without qualified assistance puts them at risk of errors and omissions that may result in having their claims rejected.
FASSTT supports the orderly and fair processing of applications for protection and requests the Australian government:
- To not impose the arbitrary deadline but have regard to the circumstances of all individuals and families;
- To fund the provision of qualified assistance so that people seeking asylum can complete their claims promptly and comprehensively.