Asylum Seekers in Australia Have a Hard Road

asylum seekersAs the search for MH370 continues to be led by Australia and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, another problem is in full swing for the Land Down Under and is not getting the attention it deserves. The issue of asylum seekers coming to Australia has been a contentious topic for Australian politics, especially since the new Coalition government under Abbott took power, but it is not about to get better any time soon. Recent events regarding asylum seekers prove once again that they have a hard road to hoe in Australia and it is not getting any easier.

On Monday it was quietly announced that legal aid was going to be cut by the government. Until now, such persons, most of whom are poor, illiterate, and speak very little English, have been unable to afford their own legal representation and were helped in their journey to receive asylum by tax-payer funded legal aid. But the Abbott government, after harping about the budget deficit and as yet offering no real solution, have decided to discontinue this important service in the name of saving 100 million dollars over the next four years.

The decision will no doubt save the government money, but it makes hardly a dent in the one billion dollars it takes to process refugees and asylum seekers, and it violates certain human rights guidelines which ensure that those who are detained should have access to free legal assistance. While the Australian government maintains that detainees will still have access to legal counsel provided by non-governmental programs, the withdrawing of government support places a great strain on all parties involved, which is not in the spirit of the guidelines.

Many pro bono aid providers, including Pro Bono Australia, are saying that the decision not only undermines refugees and asylum seekers’ rights, but that it unfairly punished vulnerable people. Pro Bono Australia and other such organizations are anticipating a higher demand for their services, which calls into question whether they have the resources to cope with that demand. Both asylum seekers and those people trying to get them access to Australia have a hard road ahead of them as the government puts more obstacles in their path.

asylum seekersNevertheless, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison did say that asylum seekers would continue to be given instructions on how the system works, though he did not specify exactly what that entails. The possibility of them understanding everything they need to know about the process is slim to none, especially since many of these people have limited English language skills or any form of education. The claim that the government’s decision unfairly disadvantages them stands when the human element is actually taken in to account.

The announcement is especially serious with the upcoming hearing of a challenge to the processing of asylum seekers on Manus Island, one of the primary detention facilities for refugees being held by the Australian government. The plaintiff in the case is claiming that the decision to send him to detention was unlawful. The case could set a precedent for other such challenges and possibly improve conditions for others waiting in detention centers. Without access to legal aid, such cases cannot move forward.

Whether the decision to discontinue legal aid is directly related to cases like this cannot be said, but it is certain that it will affect all such cases in the future. Morrison’s comments were that the decision about whether people were legitimate refugees and asylum seekers was determined by the process already in place. He followed that up by saying that the Australian government would not aid people in that process by providing legal aid. Basically, it looks like the Australian government is doing everything it can to ensure that asylum seekers do not receive asylum at all, including violating human rights to do so.

The initiative taken by the Abbott government to stop refugees coming by boat known as Operation Sovereign Borders is already of questionable legality. The Abbott government has been warned by the United Nations that it might violate international law. But the operation has gone ahead anyway and now, with the decision to discontinue legal aid, there are more questions about whether Australia is violating human rights. Until those questions are answered, asylum seekers and refugees will continue to have to walk a hard road in order to be granted protection by Australia and the current government is not going to make it any easier.

Opinion By Lydia Webb


Pro Bono Australia
United Nations

4 Responses to "Asylum Seekers in Australia Have a Hard Road"

  1. C Seckinger   April 6, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Mr. Lewis, I have to agree with Mrs. Sagan. You have an opinion too that you do not cite any facts for. You point out a few historical events and then say that Australian law is the only acceptable law. Yet there is this little thing called “international law” that if Australia doesn’t want to follow, will face consequences.
    I believe her argument is well supported and leaves room for discussion for those that oppose. Just because you do not agree does not mean you have any right to say that she shouldn’t have a voice and that she shouldn’t write about it. Also, your grammar could you some work, so I wouldn’t be so quick to comment on her journalism or writing style.
    -C. Seckinger

  2. Maxwell   April 6, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Dear Lewis,

    I truly respect your thirst for historical accuracy and deep analysis – seriously, no mockery, I do!

    At the same time, you seem to fail to understand the basic concept of efficient use of what Internet has to offer: “don’t like – close the tab”. Even though the internet is a relatively new tool, this concept has its roots at the rise of humankind, when our ancestors would gather for a meal, try one of the foods served, and realize they strongly dislike the taste of it: you see, they would just grimace, spit it out, and never touch that particular food again.

    I almost wonder if you have slight masochistic traits. It is obvious that you are familiar with Webb’s work, and have formed a negative opinion of it some time before this article was published – why in the world would you chose to spend the precious minutes of your life reading something that displeases you? There is help for that kind of self destructive behavior – or fetish clubs, whichever one tickles your fancy.

    Anyway, I wish you all the best,
    Most importantly – to learn that the world does not have a duty to be up to your own standards,

    Yours truly,

    P.s. There is an option to unsubscribe from new posts – it would be a much faster (and 100% effective!) solution to your mailbox over-flood than requesting to fire a writer.

  3. Mrs Sagan   April 6, 2014 at 3:38 am

    Lewis, it is incredibly difficult to take you seriously when you criticise Ms Webb for not ‘getting her sources from any legitimate media’, when your ignorant, ill-informed rant does not contain a single source to back up your “facts”.

  4. demolaydadwasjussayin   April 4, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Very uninformed, one-sided opinion on Australia’s waves of attempted “immigrants” seeking to overrun the carrying capacity of a large, mostly desert country, of several million, with nearly half the world’s population nearby. Australia never had a Statue of Liberty, and has been strengthening its immigration rules for decades.

    Australia took a very responsible stand on immigration, and Ms Webb/Bradbury cannot be getting her sources from any legitimate media, and calls into question the legitimacy of GLV. This is an horrible excuse for journalism, yes opinion is part of journalism, and gives the reader some insight to the publications standards, or lack thereof.

    Ms Bradbury/Webb is not correct in her “opinion”, and recalls the saying she’s “not even wrong”. It is simply bad writing, and I have better things to do than give her a history lesson on the Quiet Invasion, or Australia’s responsibility to her citisens and the Commonwealth. Australia is a Sovereign Nation, doing a very good job of self governance while surrounded by hostile countries. Australia is first and foeemost responsible to her citizens, and secondly to the Commonwealth, with only a teriary or quaternary responsibility to the world. Australia cannot help anyone if she allows herself to be destroyed by multiple invasion forces. The Parliament and PM has already had to go on record that Australian law is the only acceptable law in Australia.
    Ms Bradbury writes far too many more articles than she has the slightest clue about the underlying issues, and is a disgrace to “journalism”, because her “opinion pieces” are not only wrong, but divert reasoned discussion of the underlying issues. It seems she is just trying to make a name for herself. She has: Horrible writer, unfit for even yellow dog journalism to which she seems to aspire.
    We now have much better ways of measuring and weighting content analysis than we did thirty, or ten, or even five years ago.

    Please discontinue Ms Bradbury/Webb’s tripe polluting my inbox.
    Most Sincerely, and Possibly Litigiously,

    Lewis Young

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