Australian Nonprofit Reveals The True Extent Of The Country's Asylum Application Process

"It's not just a form, it's what will possibly decide whether you live or die."

An asylum seeker is defined as a person who has left their home country as a refugee but whose request for asylum has not yet been processed in another.

According to a Facebook post from Australia's Asylum Seeker Resource Center (ASRC), there are a myriad of difficulties facing this already vulnerable group of people across the globe, and not nearly enough resources available to help them.

The organization, which aims to "support and empower people seeking asylum in Australia" posted a photo on May 24 of a young woman (presumably one of their employees) lying beside dozens of sheets of paper that the resource center says are part of the country's asylum application process.

The post, which has been shared more than 7,400 times, reads: "The actual application #asylumseekers have to complete by October 1. 41 pages, 116 questions and only in English. You also have to attach a detailed statement of every experience of torture, rape, war and trauma they've experienced, again only in English."

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"Can't read or write English?" the post continues. "Bad luck. No interpreters or translation will be provided to you."

In conclusion, the poignant post states, "It's not just a form it's what will possibly decide whether you live or die. We've almost 1,000 people right now whose applications our lawyers need to complete by October 1."

According to Attn, even English speakers often need a lawyer in order to complete the lengthy and involved forms in a timely manner.

One commenter named Philip Beggs illustrated that point perfectly, writing, "My wife and I have eight years of university studies between us and over 50 years of classroom teaching. When we tried to help one of our friends seeking refugee status fill in the forms, we were gobsmacked at how difficult the legalistic jargon was. He ended up having to pay thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer to fill it in."

Australia's politics, it seems, are to blame for the increasingly difficult process. 

"Both major political parties in recent years have made the process of seeking in asylum in Australia more unfair and moving away from the spirit of the Refugee Convention, of which we are a signatory," Jana Favero, the ASRC's director of advocacy and campaigns, tells A Plus. "Asylum seeker and refugee policy has moved from being one based on safety, fairness and protection under Malcolm Fraser to one based on fear, deterrence and punishment.  This fear has been cultivated by politicians, with the help of mainstream media, so that refugees and people seeking asylum have been demonized and used as political pawns to whip up fear and misunderstanding."

To revamp the arduous process, Favero recommends, in part, reinstating "a refugee determination process that is fair and which treats all people seeking asylum with dignity and respect," restoring funding for legal assistance and supporting the right to legal representation for those applying for protection visas, providing "permanent, not temporary" protection for everyone, and ending Australia's "cruel detention system."

But Australia is hardly the only place asylum seekers face tremendous difficulty. 

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the number of asylum seekers admitted to the U.S. is on the decline. In 2013, 25,199 persons were granted asylum either affirmatively or defensively, which marks a 14 percent drop from 29,367 persons in 2012. As you might have guessed, the current administration is making things even more difficult for asylum seekers in part because of the immigration executive orders.

As Attn points out, according to reports from CNN, the Trump administration is making it harder for refugees to seek asylum in the U.S. by adding new roadblocks to the interview process. According to the news organization, officers are now allowed to consider signs of stress (fairly common for people fleeing war-torn countries) a significant factor in undermining an asylum seeker's credibility, which is in direct opposition to previous guidance provided by the Obama administration.

What's more? The American Immigration Council notes the asylum process typically takes years to conclude. Per the organization, the U.S. immigration court and asylum systems were backlogged with more than 620,000 pending removal and asylum cases last year, resulting in combined wait times of up to six years for asylum seekers.

"The backlogs and delays can cause prolonged separation of refugee families, leave family members abroad in dangerous situations, and impede the asylum seeker's access to pro bono counsel," the organization writes on its website.

And that's assuming everything is done right. 

The AIC also points out that, according to a 2010 study of more than 3,472 asylum cases decided by the Board of Immigration Appeals (which hears appeals of immigration judge decisions), one in five asylum applicants are denied asylum because they missed this deadline.

As Favero adds, even in Australia asylum "doesn't guarantee permanent protection."

That's why Australia's Asylum Seeker Resource Center (and organizations like it worldwide, such as America's Human Rights First) are so important. "The most powerful way to help is to take action," Favero says.

To learn more about how you can help those seeking asylum in the U.S., click here.

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