Every year on 10 December Human Rights Day
is acknowledged - the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted, in 1948. This year's theme is EQUALITY - Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights.
In Australia, many of us are privileged to exercise most of our rights everyday - including the right to an education, the right to medical care, and the freedom to practice our chosen religion. However, for some Australians, Indigenous Peoples and communities around the world, these basic rights are not commonplace.
Earlier this year, the world witnessed another humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan as the Taliban seized control of Kabul, and many other Afghan cities. This left many in a severely volatile environment, desperate to flee Afghanistan for the safety of themselves and their families.
Across Australia, there are an estimated 47,000 Afghanistan-born residents, many of whom have family and friends caught in this most recent humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. It is estimated that more than 100,000 Afghan nationals have sought humanitarian visas from Australia since the Taliban seized Kabul, and many other major Afghan cities, in August 2021.
In response to this crisis, Refugee Legal, one of the Colin Biggers & Paisley Foundation's community partners, established the Afghanistan Clinic Project to manage the inundation of requests for assistance from concerned family and friends with loved ones stranded in Afghanistan.
Over the last few months, our people have volunteered their time and skills to assist on this project. Below are some words from our people on their experience volunteering on the clinic in their various roles.
"Within the Afghanistan clinic, I have assisted in reviewing visa applications and finalising them for lodgement. Whilst doing so, I have heard a number of challenging stories from clients. Their stories really hit home for me as both my parents fled Afghanistan under similar circumstances in the early 1990s.
The most rewarding part of this clinic has been hearing the gratitude in their voices after receiving our help and knowing that I've played a role in possibly reuniting a person with their family."
"Volunteering for the Afghanistan legal clinic is an extremely rewarding experience - it is well worth the time commitment.
I was able to have multiple phone calls to explain the visa application process to prospective applicants and am satisfied to know that I assisted them in furthering their application.
I was also able to attend a half-day 'deep dive' review clinic with two families to finalise their visa applications - speaking with them makes you realise how desperately they need help, and that taking a half day out of your life to do so is the least you can do.
As members of a privileged profession, we all have a responsibility to give back to some extent, and this has been a great way to do so."
"My role in the clinic was to work on the intake phone line, acting as the first point of call for the family members and friends of individuals living in Afghanistan. My role was to register new clients, make appointments and answer any non-legal questions.
Through the clinic, I was able to experience the positive and life-changing effects that the service has on the families and friends of those who have come from such tragic and heartbreaking circumstances. I now have a better understanding of the severity of the situation in Afghanistan and recognise how important it is that we step up to help.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to assist, and although I recognise my role is rather minor in nature, it has been rewarding knowing that we are doing real work to help those in desperate need for assistance."
"Whilst volunteering with Refugee Legal, I have assisted with their pre-fill appointments working with clients to fill out the application forms on behalf of their relatives in Afghanistan.
This involves a lot of patience assisting clients to sort through supporting documents, drafting supporting statements, and making sure they know what they need to finalise the applications with the lawyers.
One of my most memorable clients was a father who was seeking assistance in a visa application for his wife and three young sons. The client had been in Australia for 4 years separated from his family and was desperately worried for their safety in Afghanistan. At the end of the three-hour call, the client was so grateful for the assistance.
Assisting Refugee Legal's clients every week is hard work, but it has been extremely rewarding knowing you have played a part in helping the clients and their families on their journey to safety