By Casey Neill
Greater Dandenong asylum seekers could be “rendered destitute” without more help to cope with the ‘lodge or leave’ deadline, says Councillor Roz Blades.
At the Tuesday 13 June council meeting, Cr Blades successfully moved that the council write to the state and federal governments and local members to advocate for increased support for asylum seekers.
Cr Blades’ motion followed a Federal Government announcement on 21 May that illegal maritime arrivals (IMA) must lodge an application for a three-year Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a five-year Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) before 1 October.
Those who miss the deadline will have their income support cut off, will not have another chance to lodge an application and will be subject to the lengthy deportation process.
Cr Blades said agencies and volunteer groups expressed distress at the announcement at a recent meeting of the council’s Asylum Seeker and Refugee Advisory Committee.
Her motion said that more than 3000 asylum seekers lived in Greater Dandenong.
“The immediate concern is accessibility of legal aid and migration advice for hundreds of people who may need assistance with lodging a range of complex applications and forms,” the motion said.
“It is anticipated that an increased number of people in the community will be in need of material aid and at risk of destitution.”
Cr Blades said the motion was simply advocating support for asylum seekers.
“That’s the role of local government,” she said.
Cr Tim Dark opposed the motion, stating: “There has been no council report. There hasn’t been any real investigation; there hasn’t been any real consultation.”
“It really is jumping on what’s potentially a non-existent issue,” he said.
Cr Dark said lodge or leave was about illegal maritime arrivals proving they were genuine and owed protection by Australia.
He said those affected had refused or failed to present a case for asylum, and many had been here for five years.
“The first thing you would do is complete the paperwork,“ he said.
Cr Heang Tak, an immigration lawyer, hit back.
“These people have fled by boat,” he said.
“You expect people to bring passport and birth certificates with them?
“That is out of touch.”
Cr Youhorn Chea said that as a Cambodian refugee, he fled without proof of his qualifications or “even our marriage certificate”.
“We just wanted to survive,” he said.
Cr Sean O’Reilly said he could see merit in both sides of the debate.
“How long does the government give them to lodge their paperwork?” he said.
“You do need some sort of deadline.
“I will be voting in support of the motion and the reason is I believe the amount of notice given to these people to lodge their paperwork is too short.
“You expect there’ll be a glut of people requiring legal support.”