Catholic Church calls for reinstatement of immigration assistance scheme

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Wednesday 2 April 2014

THE Catholic Church in Australia is calling on the Federal Government to reinstate funding for the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS).

The Government announced the decision to cut taxpayer funding for the immigration assistance service on Monday 31 March.

“Despite a worldwide increase in the number of applications for asylum, due to the ongoing and devastating Syrian humanitarian crisis, the Government continues to show contempt for the basic human rights of asylum seekers,” said Bishops’ Delegate for Migrants and Refugees, Bishop Gerard Hanna.

The Government announced that asylum seekers, who arrive in Australia by boat or air, would no longer have access to the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS).

“Whenever a person's life is threatened, it is just and fair that they should be able to make a valid application for protection. The Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme enabled asylum seekers to do this,” Bishop Hanna said.

“The vital service enabled vulnerable, persecuted and often traumatised people, who have limited or no English ability, to make an application for a protection visa.”

The ACMRO believes the Australian government has failed to uphold the human dignity of people seeking protection. Asylum seekers will now only be entitled to free legal advice from organisations that choose to provide immigration advice and application assistance on a pro-bono basis.

“Without independent, government funded legal advice, asylum seekers will have little chance navigating Australia's complex refugee process and will not be equipped to prepare highly complex applications, which the Department of Immigration demands,” Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office, National Director, Fr Maurizio Pettenà said.