Free legal advice for migrants facing employment exploitation in Australia

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The Migrant Employment Legal Service (MELS) in NSW is offering free legal advice to migrants from diverse backgrounds and temporary visa holders who are facing exploitation at work.

The service is a joint project between Inner City Legal Centre, Marrickville Legal Centre, Redfern Legal Centre and Kingsford Legal Centre, and solicitors from these centres work hard to ensure people know their employment rights.

“MELS can provide professional advice and, in some cases, free representation, in a free and confidential manner on 8002 1203,” Dianne Anagnos, Principal Solicitor at Kingsford Legal Centre (one of the participating centres), tells The Greek Herald.

“Our usual clients are typically people who have recently arrived in Australia and want advice about something unfair that has happened in the workplace- whether it is being dismissed, bullied, not being paid correctly or being discriminated against by their employer.

“We also give advice to people who have been living in Australia for a long time but are experiencing problems getting the advice they need because they are not fluent in English or cannot access information about their rights.”

Coordinator of MELS, Thina Balakisnan, adds to this and explains that those migrants who are not fluent in English are given advice in a wide range of languages, including Greek.

“We provide free professional telephone interpreters across a wide range of languages,” Ms Balakisnan says.

“Migrants are at a particular disadvantage when taking steps to fix injustices at work, whether it’s wage theft, bullying, sexual harassment or unfair dismissal. So it is important that anyone in this situation gets advice about their options.”

MELS Coordinator Thina Balakisnan & Community Worker Tu. Source: MELS.

And with the coronavirus pandemic leading to a high unemployment rate in Australia, it seems this free legal service is more important than ever.

“We have definitely experienced an increase in people reaching out to MELS (due to COVID-19). Some people who have jobs have questions about their options when they are put under extra pressure at work,” Ms Balakisnan explains.

“People who have lost their jobs or who have been “stood down” are unsure what their options are. Many people are also confused about their entitlement to JobKeeper payments. MELS can provide advice about all these situations.”

If you or anyone you know is in any of the above situations and would like free, professional and confidential advice, you can contact MELS on 8002 1203 or visit their website here.

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