March 07,2017
The Colin Biggers & Paisley Foundation is proud to announce pro bono support for Refugee Legal, Australia’s largest provider of free specialist legal assistance to people seeking asylum, refugees and disadvantaged migrants.

Refugee Legal provides free substantial legal advice and casework service for asylum seekers, refugees and disadvantaged migrants in the community and in immigration detention in Victoria and across Australia. Last year over 12,300 people were assisted.

Each Tuesday, inside a multi-storey brick building located in a side street in Melbourne, Refugee Legal provides vital legal assistance to asylum seekers.

As part of a Fast Track Clinic, refugees are met by a pool of pro bono lawyers (and a large number of volunteer paralegals) whose task it is to provide "once-off" legal assistance with visa applications. At the end of their day, each client will have completed the necessary documentation to be sent to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

The volunteers are mainly solicitors from CBD law firms who volunteer their services on a regular basis. Volunteers are required to become Registered Migration Agents and undertake mandatory CPD each year (much like solicitors) to maintain their registration. CPD sessions are run regularly by Refugee Legal for their volunteers.

Colin Biggers & Paisley has been invited to provide lawyers to attend the Fast Track Clinic and Carolyn Wait (Senior Associate, Insurance, Melbourne) recently had her first day at the Clinic, which involved shadowing an experienced Registered Migration Agent as she took instructions from her client who was seeking protection in Australia.

The process involves considering personal documents received under Freedom of Information law, cross-checking paperwork to ensure that there are no gaps or inconsistencies in the documents (as a number of the forms require a person to give certain details going back to the date of birth), completing forms and preparing attachments, and then compiling a detailed statement from the client in the form of a statutory declaration. This is all done with the assistance of interpreters.

Some applications can take a few hours, others the whole day. Clients are required to provide as much detail as possible in support of their claim. On any given Tuesday, ten asylum seekers may be provided with assistance through the Fast Track Clinic.

"My experience with the Clinic is only just beginning, but it has opened my eyes to the concerns and lives of others, and also the manner in which my legal degree can assist others," Carolyn Wait.