RASSA was founded in 2002 as a community legal centre specifically for people seeking asylum. At that time there was an urgent need for legal assistance for people seeking asylum held in immigration detention to pursue judicial review applications in the courts. Migration assistance was funded by the Federal Government, and so RASSA did not provide this service. RASSA went into a period of “hibernation” when our clients were released from detention and Woomera and Baxter were closed. We have maintained a management committee, but between 2007 and late 2014 we did not offer any legal services, or have any employees. The small number of migration judicial review cases for which pro bono assistance was sought have been dealt by JusticeNet SA.
RASSA’s management committee includes predominantly solicitors, barristers and migration agents with many years of experience in pro bono organisations. In 2014 we were approached by a number of migration agents and others working with asylum seekers, to ask whether we were in a position to provide pro bono migration assistance. In anticipation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection beginning to process protection applications, we funded a pilot project to assist asylum seekers to make applications to the Department of Immigration, under Freedom of Information, for copies of their files. This project has successfully utilised law student volunteers to assist asylum seekers to complete FOI applications, as access to the Department of Immigration file is essential for a migration agent properly to assist asylum seekers applying for protection.
In 2015 RASSA received a grant from Community Benefit SA which enabled us to launch our Migration Assistance Project to provide migration advice on a pro bono basis. The grant covered the part time salary of a migration agent and an administrative assistant for the first 12 months of the Project. RASSA staff coordinate volunteer migration advice for those asylum seekers who cannot afford to obtain such assistance commercially. Since that grant expired, RASSA has been able to source additional funding (including from the Broadley Trust and the Law Foundation of South Australia) to continue to employ part-time staff to deliver the Project. Our ability to continue this important service now depends upon donations.
For more information please go to our Migration Assistance Project page.