Virginia, US
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| Teresa Liu

Refugee Week 2016 - Erring on the side of Generosity

In amongst the ongoing US election campaign, the lead up to the Australian Federal election, and Brexit, Refugee Week 2016 seemed to come and go with little noise.

A recap of discussion at UNHCR World Refugee Day Breakfast

On 17 June 2016, Australia for UNHCR held its annual World Refugee Day Breakfast (standing #WithRefugees) to mark the occasion. Fragomen, as an ongoing supporter of organisations such as Australia for UNHCR sponsored a corporate table, and heard from a number of speakers including Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Naomi Steer, Australia for UNHCR National Director and others about the plight of millions of refugees and displaced persons.

There are currently over 65 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. In the past 5 years, the war in Syria has become the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time, with nearly 5 million people fleeing the country. These staggering numbers are of deep concern throughout the world.

As countries and economies continue to discuss broad and important issues of people movement and the associated economic and social impact, I was reminded as to human face of the issue when Maxeem Georges, a Syrian refugee told his story to the ABC’s Ellen Fanning at the Australia for UNHCR World Refugee Day Breakfast.  Now working as an accountant for Allianz, Maxeem recounted how his world fell apart when fighting erupted in the streets of Homs.  

Another speaker commented, that when attempting to balance the complex scales of the costs and benefits of a nation’s humanitarian immigration programme, we should “err on the side of generosity”. There are clearly, however, no easy answers on how to manage such a significant wave of displaced people.

Australia has a well-established humanitarian programme with an onshore component that aims to fulfil Australia’s international obligations by granting visas to people already in Australia in respect of whom Australia has protection obligations. The humanitarian programme also has an offshore component under which people outside Australia in refugee, or refugee like circumstances, may be resettled in Australia. 

How Fragomen assists asylum seekers?

Fragomen’s Litigation and Review team, led by Farid Varess (Special Counsel), assists asylum seekers with primary visa applications, as well as merits review and judicial review matters. We are also one of a small number of Government appointment Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS) providers, giving us the ability to provide eligible people in financial hardship with Government funded immigration advice and assistance.

While Fragomen is well recognised within the corporate immigration and mobility space, it is not as well known that the Australian practice is also one of the most active immigration law firms representing asylum seekers and other migration applicants at Court andhas achieved some significant wins for its clients. Such victories include the High Court matter of Plaintiff S297/2013 in which Farid and his team were able to obtain a peremptory writ of mandamus requiring the grant of a permanent protection visa to their client, who arrived in Australia by boat. 

Unable to afford legal representation, people challenging migration decisions at court are generally unrepresented. Recognising this, Fragomen offers people in financial hardship the chance to obtain advice and assistance with their court matters without an up-front fee. 

For more information about Fragomen’s Litigation and Review team, including how it can assist people in financial hardship please email Farid Varess fvaress@fragomen.com.