Student sparks court win for ACU Refugee Law Project

The actions of an Australian Catholic University law student have secured a major court win for an asylum seeker facing deportation and given hope to thousands of refugees.

Solicitors for Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton conceded significant legal weaknesses in their deportation case against a Bangladeshi man, who cannot be named, following an application from his legal representatives.

The development is a breakthrough success for ACU’s Refugee Law Project through which Thomas More Law School students assist asylum seekers in matters before the Federal Circuit Court.

ACU Bachelor of Law/Global Studies graduate Frances Coyne joined the Refugee Law Project in her final year of study at ACU’s North Sydney campus and only took on the case shortly before the end of her studies last year.

“This is a big win. Frances took it on with no experience other than the Refugee Law Project and was able to identify a legal precedent that ensured we won the case,” Project founder and Sydney barrister Victor Kline said.

Following a recommendation from Ms Coyne, the man’s pro bono barrister successfully cited precedent to argue that he could not be classified as an “unauthorised maritime arrival”.

“You meet these people, hear their stories and many of them are quite sad,” she said. “So, to be involved in a favourable outcome for the client is great for the soul.”

The Refugee Law Project is a program that offers support to asylum seekers who are considering taking their cases to court. For most, English is their second language and many have little faith in the legal process.

During their law degree program, Thomas More Law School undergraduates are required to perform two units, or a total of 160 hours, of pro bono legal service and many choose to do this by assisting refugees through the Refugee Law Project.

“This isn’t filing, this is going into court, meeting clients, analysing documents, corresponding with the Minister’s solicitors and making recommendations to one of our team of pro bono barristers,” Mr Kline said.

“This is an enormous shot in the arm, not just for the program, but for the other students. It tells them they really can make a difference.

“For someone like Frances, meeting refugees and offering a service that makes them feel comfortable and restores trust gives everyone hope that we can achieve something.”

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