Grant to help reunite Tasmanian families separated by war

TASMANIAN Refugee Legal Service (TRLS) has been awarded a $7,000 grant from the Harcourts Foundation to help reunite families separated by war and conflict.

The armed Tigray conflict has affected many Tasmanian residents with refugee backgrounds who have family members caught in the conflict, which is ongoing in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

The grant from Harcourts will help TRLS assist those affected with making applications to reunite with their family members.

TRLS Principal Lawyer Patrick O’Connor hoped they could alleviate some of the distress the conflict, which has reports of significant war crimes, is causing for separated families in Tasmania.

The conflict, which erupted in November 2020 from rising tensions between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has resulted in around 62,255 Tigrinyian refugees spilling across the border to Sudan.

“Many have family members currently living in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Sudan and Eritrea,” Mr O’Connor said.

UNICEF estimates 1.3 million children cannot go to school due to both the conflict and COVID-19. The region has been without electricity, water and food for several weeks.

“It is hoped that this legal advice and casework will change the pathway of many people’s lives and result in families being reunited and connected again in Tasmania,” Mr O’Connor said.

TRLS will hire an expert lawyer to provide free legal advice, which will help address the recent spike in Tasmanian residents requesting assistance with visa applications for family members from Ethiopia and Eritrea caught in the conflict.

Mr O’Connor said the TRLS legal advice could be the difference between refugees finding safety with family members in Australia when borders reopen or remaining separated and endangered.

He said the TRLS were “very grateful to the Harcourts Foundation.”

“We estimate this project will have a significant impact on the Tasmanian community.”

For more information about Harcourts grant opportunities, visit https://harcourtsfoundation.org/apply/. 

For more information about the work of the Tasmanian Refugee Legal Service, visit https://www.facebook.com/rlstasmania/ or https://www.trls.org.au/.

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