Asylum seekers who are yet to lodge their application for refugee status have been subjected to continuous pressure and punitive policy changes that include:
- waiting for several years to be able to apply for refugee status;
- legislative changes which remove procedural safeguards and raise the bar for refugee status;
- removal of access to permanent residence; and,
- a drastic reduction in funding for legal assistance and interpreting services.
According to the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, asylum seekers have been in Australia for “five, six, seven years claiming to be refugees but won’t provide any information, won’t answer questions, in some cases won’t provide information about their identity”.
However, the Minister failed to note that most of these asylum seekers have been unable to lodge their claim until relatively recently. It was not until July 2015 that the Government began progressively inviting them to lodge their application for refugee protection. By the time the final batch of invitations was sent last year, some had waited more than four years for the opportunity to apply.
Many have sought legal assistance but have been unable to lodge their claim due to the length and complexity of the application form, the massive backlog in the system, a lack of access to interpreting services, and underfunded and overstretched legal services. Due to unprecedented demand, some legal assistance services have waiting lists of more than 12 months.