Mental health and legal representation for asylum seekers in the ‘legacy caseload’

Mary Anne Kenny
Nicholas Procter
Carol Grech


This article examines the legal challenges asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia experience when seeking assistance with their claims and its impact on their mental health. The authors outline the experiences of asylum seekers in the “legacy caseload” group who have been waiting up to four years to have their protection claims assessed. The complex interplay between legal assistance to support refugee claims and the way those making claims inevitably struggle to understand, engage and participate in the process is analysed. It is argued that provision of legal assistance for this group will be essential to ensuring that the refugee status determination process is fair and allows asylum seekers to understand and participate more fully in the process. Recent changes to the assessment of claims combined with a reduction in funding for legal assistance create significant hurdles and combine to compound existing stress and emotional trauma leading to detrimental outcomes on the mental health of asylum seekers.

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