Australian lawyers are providing pro bono legal help to people from Afghanistan living in Australia following the Taliban takeover of the country.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) has just launched an Afghanistan Legal Clinic with the help of pro bono law firms and lawyer volunteers. According to ProBono Australia the ASRC has been receiving around 400 calls and over 100 daily emails from Afghans seeking help to bring family members and others to Australia.
This clinic will offer greater access to visa pathways, with Maurice Blackburn and Gadens law firms hosting a legal triage service to support Afghan people in need. Numerous other law firms and around 100 lawyers have also volunteered for the cause.
Dr Carolyn Graydon, the principal solicitor and manager of ASRC’s Human Rights Law Program, thanked the legal community for its “huge groundswell of support” for the clinic.
She said Afghans in Australia face a morass of red tape, including long visa processing, costly visa application fees, and burdensome visa lodgement requirements.
“For people from Afghanistan already in Australia, government policy deliberately deprioritises family reunion applications made by permanent resident refugees who originally arrived by sea, as part of its punitive suite of laws,” Graydon said.
“The family is the fundamental unit of our society and is deserving of special support and protection.
“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.”
The ASRC says Australia’s current allocation of 3,000 humanitarian visa places to people in Afghanistan is “completely inadequate”, noting it is well below the 20,000 additional places offered by Canada.
Jacob Varghese, the CEO of Maurice Blackburn, said the legal firm was happy it could make a difference in this way.
“So many of us look at the TV and feel powerless to help. But through their practical work and advocacy the ASRC turned that despair into action,” Varghese said.
“Maurice Blackburn is pleased to support our employees to work with the ASRC to help secure safety for as many people from Afghanistan as possible.”