Dear Colleague,

Just over 100 days after the Federal election, many are asking: What now is the state of refugee policy in our country?

What’s clear is that the deterrence agenda underpins it.

As it stands, key elements of the Federal Government’s legislative and policy agenda seem likely to continue. They’re driven by exclusionary and punitive measures, and systemic and severe violations of basic rights and freedoms.  This is likely to continue to inflict wide-scale injustice and harm, both offshore and here.

For anyone in doubt, one only need look at the fate of the Biloela Tamil family - denied the right to stay, and now exiled to prison-like conditions on Christmas Island – thousands of kilometres away from many who have cared for and supported them – and from a nation that has, it seems, embraced them. This is the human face of the Australian Government’s deterrence agenda laid bare. A single act of compassion and basic decency to let them stay is denied due to an alleged risk that – somehow – an armada of boats could descend on our shores.

In reality, we are seeing situations like this every day. And every day, we continue to fight for justice for people in these kind of predicaments.

Across the country, unmet legal need for people seeking asylum, refugees and vulnerable migrants is endemic, unprecedented and escalating.

Offshore, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis only deepens, with health and hope of those held for over six years of cruel limbo deteriorating dangerously.  Onshore, there is a slow-motion crisis for 31,000 people still in legal limbo - deprived of the ability to rebuild their lives with a sense of safety and security together with us. Thousands of people still awaiting the first decision on their refugee case after arriving seven years ago. And those already granted temporary protection, now having to re-plead their case for at best, another three or five-year visa. [See further below]

For those seeking our help in ever-increasing numbers, the systemic injustices they confront are complex and grave. Amongst them are people facing destitution after being stripped of their basic income support, housing and trauma counselling while seeking protection; women and their children seeking protection from family violence; people being detained indefinitely, including due to ‘character’-based visa cancellation; and people battling for family reunion after years of separation.  And, people facing deportation without before being allowed to apply for protection – unless they can get to a lawyer in time.

To this end, there was another telling reminder of the impact of our legal work just last week. We urgently intervened to ensure that a man from a Gulf State, on the verge of being deported to feared danger could stay and apply for protection here. And since February, we have played an instrumental role, in partnership, to assist with the medical evacuation of more than 130 people from Manus and Nauru. [See further below]

In the face of these injustices, we will continue to defend to the end the rights and lives of the thousands of people who seek our help. We will do this through direct legal action for many, strategic litigation, and fearlessly advocating for change.

Yours sincerely,

David Manne
Executive Director & Principal Solicitor
Refugee Legal

Medevac Laws
Since the passing of the Medevac Laws in February, Refugee Legal has continued to play a lead role – with other key partners – in ensuring that critically ill people in PNG and on Nauru can be evacuated to Australia for urgent medical treatment. Men and women who have endured over six years of untold suffering.

Offshore Processing
In addition to medical evacuation, there have been range of complex developments impacting the over 700 people still held in cruel limbo in PNG and Nauru, as well as over 1,000 people have been brought back to Australia for medical treatment.

We’re doing this as a key member of the Medical Evacuation Response Group (MERG) - an independent coalition of specialists, including doctors, lawyers, caseworkers, and counsellors.

Onshore Processing
While attention has rightly focussed on the plight of people trapped in offshore detention, a slow-motion crisis continues onshore.  The re-elected Government remains committed to the unfair Fast Track process and only temporary protection for people who’ve arrived by boat.  A process that inflicts further harm on people who have fled from harm and  keeps them in a perpetual state of uncertainty - cut off from a secure future and from family reunion.

Our work for change
  • Refugee Legal was part of a lobbying delegation to Parliament in Canberra with key sector agencies.

  • David Manne presented at the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges (IARMJ) Africa Chapter Regional Conference Cape Town and  the Roundtable on Litigating Refugee and Migrant Rights in Africa.

  • Presentation by David Manne at 7th Annual Strategic Litigation Roundtable and attendance at the UNHCR – NGO Consultations in Geneva on extraterritorial responsibility for asylum seekers transferred offshore.

  • David Manne was in conversation with authors Jane McAdam and Fiona Chong, at the launch of their book, "Refugee Rights and Policy Wrongs", at the Earthbound Bolton Café in Eltham.

  • Keynote address at  the Rural Australians for Refugees Annual General Meeting in Queanbeyan, where he delivered "The Apology: To the refugees, we say sorry".

  • Submission and Oral Testimony : Inquiry into the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2019 – proposing a life-time visa ban for people subject to offshore detention.

  • Submission: Inquiry into Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019 – proposed expansion of scope and powers to cancel.

  • Submission and Oral Testimony: Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019 – proposed repeal of medevac laws.

Refugee Legal
Level 6
20 Otter Street
Collingwood Victoria 3066

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