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May 17, 2016 7:10 EST

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

iCrowdNewswire - May 17, 2016

Seeking Refuge

 

An Asylum Seeker is a person who has fled their own country and applied for protection as a refugee.” The Australian Human Rights Commission

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?

Naturally, we are seeking financial contributions to this funding campaign so we can get interpreters to assist with the protection visa applications. We need a lot of money for this project and every little bit helps, so please donate what you can. There are some great rewards for donating and all donations over $2 are tax deductible. Donating has also been scientifically proven to make you feel great so go on and give it a go!

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.

Project Background

The SRP is a community project and is funded for a part time project worker through a grant provided by the R.E. Ross Trust. Marijana, our fabulous project worker, works one day a week co-ordinating the project. Aside from Marijana’s time, the project is totally delivered by volunteers. We have recruited and are training a small army of volunteer Migration Agents and administrative volunteers to provide advice and support to our local Asylum Seekers, both through the protection visa application process and by delivering other practical assistance.

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

Bellarine for Refugees initiated, and continues to oversee, the SRP. A branch of Rural Australia for Refugees, the community organisation is based in Barwon Heads and works towards a more humane approach to Refugees and Asylum Seekers via raising community awareness, discussing the issues with government representatives and offering support to refugees and asylum seekers.

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
Asylum Seekers.

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

With your help, SRP is looking for $70,000 in donations to fund interpreters to work with volunteers and Asylum Seekers in Geelong and the surrounding area. All donations over $2 are tax deductible and will be issued with an official receipt. The administration of SRP is provided by Barwon Community Legal Service, all funds raised from this campaign will be used to provide interpreters for Asylum Seekers, not on project or agency overheads.

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.

The Challenges

Over the next 18 months Asylum Seekers will receive letters from the Australian Government inviting them to apply for a protection visa (some have received their letters already). They will then have 60 days to lodge their application – it is 80 pages long, has over 100 questions and is all in English.

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.

 

Contact Information:

Barwon Community Legal Service Inc.

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