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Urgent call for Government to protect asylum seekers and refugees

Asylum Asylum Seekers and Refugees
Refugee in darkness

The Australian Human Rights Commission calls on the Australian Government to make urgent changes to improve protections for approximately 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers living in the Australian community.

A new report released today, Lives on hold: Refugees and asylum seekers in the ‘Legacy Caseload’, reveals the human rights situation for approximately 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including families and children, who arrived in Australia by boat before 1 January 2014.

Due to a number of legal and policy changes since 2012, these people are treated differently from other groups of asylum seekers. They have been living in Australia for at least five years, and in some cases much longer.

“These people face prolonged delays in assessing their refugee claims, with limited government support to meet their health and other needs. They risk severe deterioration in their living conditions and mental health, with many at higher risk of suicide,” said Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow.

“The Australian Government should improve human rights protections for these vulnerable people,” he said.

The Report makes 31 recommendations that focus on the following areas:
•    a better process to determine whether an individual is a refugee
•    improved support for people on bridging visas, to avoid homelessness
•    the need for permanent protection for people found to be refugees
•    addressing the problem of family separation, and
•    the ongoing risk of immigration detention.

“We call on the Australian Government to reinstate a more thorough and fair process for assessing refugee claims, to ensure adequate safeguards against returning a person in need of protection to a country where they are at risk of harm. The Government should also offer permanent, rather than temporary, protection for those found to be refugees,” said Commissioner Santow.

“While they wait for their legal situation to be resolved, many people in the Legacy Caseload are at risk of poverty, with inadequate support to maintain secure housing and health care. The Government should ensure these people have the basic support needed to protect them against such harm.”

The Commission’s report drew on the experience of approximately 130 people who work directly with people in the Legacy Caseload.

The Department of Home Affairs has responded to the Commission’s recommendations. These responses are published alongside the report, which can be found here:

> Read the report