A Coalition plan to deny asylum seekers the right to free legal advice would result in refugees being wrongly returned to countries where they are fleeing persecution, lawyers and human rights advocates warn.
In the latest addition to Tony Abbott‘s border protection strategy, the Coalition announced on Saturday that asylum seekers who arrive by boat will no longer have the right to free government assistance and help with lodging appeals. Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said an Abbott government would not prevent refugee advocates from giving legal aid to asylum seekers, but taxpayers would no longer pay for it, saving about $100 million over the next four years.
But lawyers and refugee advocates hit out at the policy, warning it could lead to a serious miscarriage of justice if people were wrongly refused refugee protection. ”You’ve got the might of the government on one side, and a refugee claimant on the other side, who probably doesn’t speak English, probably hasn’t got a law degree, and probably hasn’t mastered the complexities of our refugee system. It’s an unfair fight,” said refugee advocate Julian Burnside, QC.
”What it will do is put very vulnerable people at increased risk of being returned to countries where they have been persecuted,” he said.
Under the Coalition’s policy, people who arrive illegally will be automatically banned from accessing the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme, which provides government-funded services for those seeking protection in Australia.
But Mr Morrison said the Coalition would not entirely abandon asylum seekers, and would continue to provide information kits in various languages.
Refugee Council of Australia chief executive Paul Power said a kit would be ”completely inadequate” to help people navigate such a complex refugee processing scheme.
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