New asylum seekers lose free law aid

Nick Butterly Canberra
New asylum seekers lose free law aid

Asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat or air will no longer get free legal advice as the Government slashes $100 million from immigration services.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison will confirm in Perth today that the Government will make it more difficult for asylum seekers to navigate the complicated process of seeking protection by axing the long-standing Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme.

Under the program, asylum seekers are given free help by taxpayer-funded legal officers to fill in arrival forms and begin the process of applying for asylum.

"From today, people who arrived illegally by boat, as well as illegally by air, will no longer receive free immigration advice and assistance under the scheme," Mr Morrison said.

"Australia's protection obligations do not extend to providing free immigration advice and assistance to those who arrived in Australia illegally."

The $100 million saved is calculated over a four-year period.

Asylum seekers will still be able to access legal advice provided on a pro bono basis by private providers.

Mr Morrison said a small amount of free advice would still be provided by the Government in special cases, such as to unaccompanied minors.

The announcement is expected to infuriate asylum seeker advocates, who complain it is becoming increasingly difficult to get in contact with asylum seekers.

"If people choose to violate how Australia chooses to run our refugee and humanitarian program, they should not presume upon the support and assistance that is provided to those who seek to come the right way, and they should certainly not receive additional assistance, as they did under the previous government," Mr Morrison, who will be in Perth this week along with the rest of Federal Cabinet, said.

The plan to abolish the legal advice scheme was an election commitment by the coalition.

At the weekend, the Government boasted it had now gone 100 days since an asylum seeker vessel had made a "successful" venture to Australia but it refused to say how many asylum seekers had attempted the voyage but been turned back.

'People who arrived illegally … will no longer receive free immigration advice.'"

  • Scott Morrison * Immigration Minister