Lawyers fight for asylum seekers in strife

A file photo of Myanmar refugees lining up at the Chinese border. Source:

A file photo of Myanmar refugees lining up at the Chinese border. Source:

Refugee lawyers have vowed to fight for 71 asylum seekers whose welfare payments have been cut off after they missed a deadline to lodge claims for Australia’s protection.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton gave roughly 7000 asylum seekers who arrived by boat a non-negotiable October 1 deadline to “lodge it or leave”.

“The 71 automatically from now on they’re cut off from receiving government benefits throughout the community,” he told 2GB radio on Thursday.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre chief executive Kon Karapanagiotidis said his lawyers and others would contest the legality of removing the right to seek asylum from the 71 people involved.

“What if one of them is a single mother from Mynamar who couldn’t apply because she couldn’t leave her kids to come to a legal appointment,” he said.

“How can you have blanket decision on the 71 people without considering each case? The government should be required to review and facilitate legal assistance for the 71 so their claims are assessed.”

Mr Dutton has instructed his department to put extra resources into processing the 7400-odd claims lodged.

“We’ll go through and process those claims and once we’ve done that we meet our international obligations,” he said.

“Where people have been found not to be a refugee after their lodgement has been assessed then we can start deporting people from Australia.”

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre acting principal lawyer Noosheen Mogadam said the fight was not over.

“These are mothers, fathers, and young children. Many were scared to come forward to lodge protection claims, given Australia’s ever changing refugee policies and laws and the uncertainty in process,” she said.

“After the minster’s delegates make these decisions, we will try to assist those unfairly refused to access the court. We will fight for the rule of law for those most vulnerable in our society.”

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