THE Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) opened the Afghanistan Legal Clinic, providing pro bono legal aid to thousands of Afghan Australians seeking to bring loved ones to safety.
Since the Taliban takeover began in May, at least 244,000 Afghans have become internally displaced after fleeing their homes in fear.
Afghan Australians are worried for the safety of their loved ones, with the ASRC having received around 400 calls and over 100 emails per day from the community desperate for information and legal assistance.
The clinic will provide free legal assistance to meet the increased demand for visa pathways for their families.
It is supported by several law firms and over 100 volunteer lawyers.
Law firms Maurice Blackburn and Gadens are hosting a legal triage service to assess needs and provide information and referrals.
Principal Solicitor at the ASRC, Dr Carolyn Graydon, said it would be impossible to handle this level of enquiries on their own.
“It has been just fantastic to see such a huge groundswell of support from the legal profession offering to provide assistance at this time of great need for people from Afghanistan,” she said.
Dr Graydon said the clinic will help Afghan Australians through the mass of red tape, including lengthy visa processing times and complicated visa lodgement requirements.
“This is not only about decency, compassion and humanity, but the right to family reunion is also recognised under international law,” she said
“The family is the fundamental unit of our society and is deserving of special support and protection.”
Monash Arts student and first-generation Afghan Australian, Sadaf Zekaria, said it used to be much easier to help bring family members from overseas.
“I know back in the day when my parents first moved here there was a sponsorship program,” she said.
“That’s why my entire extended family is now in Australia.”
Miss Zekaria said the Australian Government should take in more refugees, particularly women, children and the elderly.
“If other countries can do it, I’m not sure why Australia wouldn’t,” she said.
CEO of Maurice Blackburn, Jacob Varghese, said the firm is pleased to work with the ASRC and help secure safety for people in Afghanistan.
“So many of us look at the TV and feel powerless to help,” he said.
“But through their practical work and advocacy the ASRC turned that despair into action.”
Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at the ASRC, Jana Favero, said while they are doing their part to help Afghan Australians, the Australian Government must do so as well.
Countries such as Canada have pledged to provide 20,000 additional humanitarian visa places for vulnerable Afghans, while the Australia Government will offer 3000 places.
The 3000 places will come from the existing number of available humanitarian visas of 13,750 each year.
“For a Government which claims to care about families and family values, it’s time we saw some policies and action to reflect this,” Ms Favero said.
Jessica Roberts is a Masters of Journalism and International Relations student at Monash University. She is interested in advocating for women’s empowerment, amplifying the voices of marginalised communities and creating a society more inclusive and welcoming of minority groups. Jessica is passionate about writing stories that help make a difference.