By Kat Brown
We’ve been talking a lot lately about the unchecked powers of the Immigration Minster and how he wields them to play god with the lives of people seeking asylum.
Last Sunday afternoon, Peter Dutton did just that. With the flick of a pen, Dutton declared that over 7,000 people would have to lodge their formal refugee applications by 1 October this year.
While lodging a form by October may not sound too difficult, the reality is a complex bureaucratic maze, that even lawyers find difficult to navigate. The waiting lists for legal assistance are thousands of people long, and the stakes are life or death.
Dutton is doing this because he’s desperate: he’s down in the polls and he’s willing to go to any lengths to clamber his way back up; even if it means tearing people from their communities and risking thousands of lives.
Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do about it:
What is the 1 October deadline and who does it apply to?
The deadline applies to the legacy caseload. This caseload consists of about 30, 500 people who arrived in Australia by sea between August 2012 and January 2014. Their claims for protection were frozen under Labor’s ‘no advantage’ rule.
Many people within this cohort have already lodged their applications. But lines for legal assistance are long (up to a year), and many people were banned from applying until October 2016. As a result, over 7,000 people have not yet lodged their applications.
What does applying involve?
The form consist of 101 questions and takes up 41 pages, before a person even attaches their statement and supporting documents, like identification. To give you a sense of scale, an application for a family of 5 where both parents have a claim for protection would take up around 180 pages. If you’re wondering what that looks like — check out our picture above!
And the questions aren’t easy, they have to be answered in English and realistically require the assistance of a lawyer.
Why does it matter?
If people don’t get their applications in on time, Dutton will deem their claims to protection forfeited and deport them from Australia. He will tear children from their schools and soccer clubs, and parents from their jobs and communities.
In many cases, this is a death sentence. People will be sent back to persecution and torture, in blatant breach of our moral and legal obligations.
What can I do?
GetUp! have organised a massive petition — sign it and share widely.
If you can, send some money in the direction of a refugee legal centre, every dollar counts between now and October. Refugee Legal, the ASRC and RACS all have big waiting lists and the capacity to scale up rapidly with additional funding.