Currently there are around 300 Asylum Seekers in Geelong and the surrounding area who have fled another country where they have experienced, or were at risk of experiencing, torture and persecution.
Asylum Seekers have come to Australia seeking safety and now have one opportunity for protection by applying for a protection visa. The visa application process is very lengthy and complex, and requires a detailed written statement outlining their case for a visa. Everything needs to be completed in English.
Dealing with Government Departments, legal services and filling out forms can be difficult for anyone. Imagine going through the process without understanding the language on the forms and being unsure of how to access help while facing the prospect of being sent back to the country you fled to escape torture and persecution.
Asylum Seekers need our help!
The Geelong and Bellarine-based Seeking Refuge Project (SRP) is mobilising a small army of volunteer Migration Agents and administrative volunteers to help local Asylum Seekers prepare their protection visa applications. These volunteers will provide migration law advice and practical help to Asylum Seekers to apply for protection visas, and there is an urgent need for interpreters to work alongside them.
Professional interpreters are essential so that the Asylum Seekers and volunteers can understand each other. This understanding will make the application process possible and provide the Asylum Seekers with the best chance of having their story told. Once the Asylum Seeker’s story is properly told, their claim for protection can then reasonably be assessed.
Without access to interpreters Asylum Seekers will have difficulty understanding the requirements of the process, will have a reduced chance of their application being accepted and may be returned to the country from which they fled, the very country where they experienced violence, torture and persecution.
What will YOU do?
If donating your time and skills is more your thing, then check out our volunteer information here. We are training volunteer lawyers to become Migration Agents and also have administrative volunteers supporting the project. All volunteers will receive thorough training and ongoing support throughout their involvement in the project.
The project is auspiced by Barwon Community Legal Service who employs Marijana and is supported by a number of organisations and individuals with special knowledge and interest in protecting the rights of Asylum Seekers and Refugees. The project is overseen by the SRP Reference Group and we hope it will be a pilot for similar projects to be rolled out in other regional centres.
The volunteer service offered is legitimate, professional and closely supervised by Refugee Legal.
The Project Team
Barwon Community Legal Service (BCLS) is a not-for-profit independent community legal service and provides free legal information, advice, casework and education to members of the local community with a focus on social justice and working with marginalised and disadvantaged people. BCLS has a proud 30 year history of protecting the rights of members of our local community.
The Wesley Centre for Life Enrichment is part of UnitingCare. The Geelong–based centre offers care, counselling and education and also provides a venue and auspice for the Welcome Place, a drop-in centre for
Diversitat is a registered charity celebrating its 40th year of service this year. A not-for-profit community service organisation that provides support services for Refugees, Asylum Seekers, other migrants and the disadvantaged throughout Geelong and the Barwon region, Diversitat represents the voice of 70,000 migrants in the region.
Combined Refugee Action Group Geelong brings together local individuals and groups from a variety of backgrounds with the shared aim of advocating for a just, humane and welcoming policy towards Asylum Seekers and Refugees.
Refugee Legal is a Melbourne-based independent community legal centre specialising in all aspects of refugee and immigration law, policy and practice. The centre assists Asylum Seekers, Refugees and disadvantaged migrants in the community and in detention and provides training and supervision for all volunteers working in the Seeking Refuge project.
Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, an independent Melbourne-based organisation, aims to create the most just refugee determination system possible and is committed both to practical daily assistance for Asylum Seekers and Refugees and to community education as the stimulus for social change.
Deakin University is a proud supporter and facilitator of the Seeking Refuge Project.
How The Funds Will Be Used
The SRP is arranging workshops for Asylum Seekers to complete protection visa applications supported by volunteer Migration Agents and administrative volunteers. Most of these applicants will also need to be supported by an interpreter to ensure that the information provided is accurately recorded. Each application will take several hours to complete at a cost of around $465 in interpreter time.
This campaign, if successful, will provide interpreters for 150 protection visa applications.
Time is of the essence. The sooner we can fund interpreters, the quicker they will be able to assist Asylum Seekers to complete and lodge their protection visa applications.
When the granting of permanent protection visas was frozen in 2014, major cuts were also made to Government funding of assistance for Asylum Seekers and, except for this SRP, there is little local assistance for Geelong and Bellarine Asylum Seekers to complete protection visa applications.