A New South Wales-based legal organisation has announced the launch of a project designed to assist individuals in immigration detention throughout Australia.
The Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) NSW has established the Offshore Asylum Seeker Project which will aim to meet the rapidly expanding demand for legal services following a High Court decision late last year which established that individuals in immigration detention may be entitled to judicial review when refused a protection visa.
"This project is a credit to the legal profession, which has quickly and enthusiastically joined together to coordinate a pro bono response to one of the most significant areas of need within the legal landscape today," said project coordinator Anna Roberts.
"While exact numbers of individuals who fall into this category are unknown, it is estimated that there are currently around 1,000 people in immigration detention throughout Australia who have been rejected and may currently hold the right to judicial review."
According to Roberts, applications have thus far been filed in every Federal Magistrates Court in the country, with more than 80 applications in Sydney and 40 in Melbourne.
"We expect this number to rise sharply," she said.
PILCH NSW initiated the project in partnership with the NSW Bar Association, Law Society NSW, Refugee Advice and Casework Service and Balmain for Refugees. It is asking barristers and solicitors to take on these matters pro bono, because funding for migration agents ceases once an individual has been refused a visa by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship at the independent merits review level.
So far, 73 barristers and 16 law firms have expressed their interest in participating in the project.