2012 Face the Facts - Chapter 3

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Questions and answers about asylum seekers, refugees and immigration detention

3.1 Asylum seekers and refugees

The terms ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ are often confused. An asylum seeker is someone who says that he or she is a refugee but whose claim has not yet been assessed. A refugee is someone who has been assessed by a national government or an international agency (such as the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)) and meets the criteria set out under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951 (Refugee Convention).

Countries that have ratified the Refugee Convention, such as Australia, are obliged to assess asylum seekers’ claims for protection according to that Convention.[209]

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3.2 How many asylum seekers are there?

Approximately 845 000 people claimed asylum or refugee status worldwide in 2010.[210]

As Australia shares no national border with any other country and is far from most major conflicts, comparatively few people seek asylum here. In 2010, 8250 people applied for asylum in Australia, which is less than 2% of the total number of asylum seekers worldwide at that time.[211] In comparison, over 180 000 people applied for asylum in South Africa in 2010; while 54 000 applied for asylum in the United States; 48 000 in France; 41 000 in Germany and 31 000 in Ecuador.[212]

Find out more

Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, 2011; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2012)

 

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3.3 Who is a refugee?

The Refugee Convention defines who is a refugee and sets out the basic rights that countries should guarantee to refugees.[213]

According to the Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who is outside his or her own country and cannot return due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.[214]

As soon as a person in this situation crosses an international border, he or she is a refugee. The person’s refugee status is confirmed when his or her claim is assessed, either by a national government or an international agency, such as the UNHCR, and he or she is found to meet the definition of a refugee.

The term ‘refugee’ is often used more broadly than its legal definition allows. In popular usage, it generally includes all people who flee their homes to seek refuge from any kind of harm or threat of harm, such as war, civil strife, domestic violence, poverty or environmental collapse.

However, the legal definition is narrower than this and only applies to people who can show they have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Find out more

Refugees Guide; OneWorld website

 

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3.4 How many refugees are there?

There were approximately 15.4 million refugees around the world at the end of 2010.[215] Of these, 10.55 million were under the responsibility of the UNHCR and 4.82 million were Palestinian refugees under the responsibility of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.[216]

In 2010, developing countries hosted 80% of the world’s refugees and 75% of refugees lived in countries neighbouring their country of origin. Thirty-eight per cent of all refugees resided in countries in the Asia Pacific region; 20% in Sub-Saharan Africa; 18% in the Middle East and North Africa; 15% in Europe; and 8% in the Americas.[217]

Countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees included: Pakistan, which was home to 1.9 million refugees; Iran, which hosted 1.07 million refugees; and Syria, which was home to just over 1 million refugees.[218] Australia hosted 21 805 refugees in 2010.[219]

The country of origin for the highest number of refugees in 2010 – 3.05 million people – was Afghanistan. Iraqis make up the second largest group of refugees in the world at 1.68 million people. Afghans and Iraqis together account for 45% of all refugees under the UNHCR’s responsibility. The third largest group of refugees in 2010, numbering 770 000 people, originated from Somalia, while the fourth largest group comprised 477 000 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo.[220]

In 2010, females represented 49% of most populations under the responsibility of the UNHCR. Of all persons of concern to the UNHCR 47% were children under the age of 18 and 5% were 60 years or older.[221]

Find out more

The refugee story in statistics; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees website

 

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3.5 How do asylum seekers and refugees differ from migrants?

Asylum seekers or refugees and migrants have very different experiences and reasons for moving to another country.

Migrants choose to leave their home country. They can also choose where to go and when they might return to their home country.

Asylum seekers and refugees, on the other hand, flee their country for their own safety and cannot return unless the situation that forced them to leave improves.

Migrants may belong to vulnerable groups and they can face similar challenges to refugees when travelling to and settling in a new country. However, these two groups of people are treated very differently under international law.

See Chapter 2 for questions and answers about migrants and migration.

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3.6 What is the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees?

The UNHCR was established in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly and began operating the following year. It was initially established for a three-year term to protect the interests of the remaining refugees who had been displaced by the Second World War. However, far from disappearing, the problem of displacement developed into a persistent worldwide issue in the second half of the twentieth century.

The UNHCR currently operates in 125 countries and helps approximately 33.9 million people.[222] Its role is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees and to coordinate international action to protect refugees. It also has a mandate to help stateless people.[223]

The UNHCR has identified three preferred, durable solutions for the problems facing refugees:

  • voluntary return to their country of origin in conditions of safety and dignity
  • local integration into a country of asylum if a safe return to the country of origin is not possible
  • resettlement in a third country if neither of the first two options is possible or suitable.[224]

The UNHCR encourages countries to frame their national refugee laws and policies around these three solutions.[225]

Find out more

Durable Solutions: Repatriation, Resettlement, Local Integration; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

 

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3.7 What obligations does Australia owe asylum seekers and refugees?

Australia is one of 145 countries to have ratified the Refugee Convention.[226] This means that Australia has committed to respect the rights of refugees and to uphold the obligations set out in the treaty.

Crucially, as a party to the Convention, Australia has agreed to never return a refugee to a country where he or she has reason to fear persecution.[227] This is the case whether people arrive in Australia with a valid visa or not. In accordance with its international obligations Australia should give all people seeking asylum the chance to prove that they are refugees.

Australian law requires that asylum seekers who have not been successful in their claims for refugee status and have no lawful basis for remaining in Australia be removed from the country as soon as practicable.[228]

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3.8 What is Australia’s policy on asylum seekers and refugees?

Under its Humanitarian Program, Australia accepts a certain number of people every year who are refugees or have special humanitarian needs.

The Humanitarian Program has two main components:

  • offshore resettlement for people who are found to be refugees and others whose need for protection has been acknowledged before they come to Australia, and
  • onshore protection for people who make a successful claim for asylum after they arrive in Australia.

Australia is the only country in the world to numerically link its system for granting asylum onshore and its scheme for resettling people from offshore under a single program. The effect of this link is that each time a person is granted refugee status within Australia, one place is subtracted from the offshore component. Other countries determine a particular number of refugees to be resettled each year, depending on global needs, and meet this commitment regardless of how many people seek asylum directly from the country.

Resettling people who have been found to be refugees overseas (offshore resettlement)

Refugees and other ‘humanitarian entrants’ who apply for a visa from outside Australia can be granted one of two kinds of visas.

  • Refugee Visas can be granted to people outside their home country who satisfy the Refugee Convention definition of ‘refugee’ and who are in need of resettlement because they cannot return to their home country or stay where they are.[229]
  • Special Humanitarian Program Visas can be granted to people outside their home country who have experienced substantial discrimination amounting to a gross violation of their human rights in their home country. A proposer – who is an Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, eligible New Zealand citizen or organisation based in Australia – must support an application for this visa.[230]

Protecting people who seek asylum from within Australia (onshore protection)

Some people can seek to be recognised as refugees when they are already in Australia by applying for a Protection Visa. Asylum seekers must satisfy the Refugee Convention definition of ‘refugee’ to be granted a Protection Visa.

Australia is obliged to protect a refugee if:

  • the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution on at least one of the grounds covered by the Refugee Convention
  • the applicant has not committed war crimes or serious non-political crimes
  • the applicant does not have effective protection in another country (through citizenship or some other right to enter and remain safely in that country).

A Protection Visa allows a refugee to live in Australia as a permanent resident. It gives people the same rights as other permanent residents, including being able to apply for citizenship.[231]

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3.9 How many refugees come to Australia and where do they come from?

In 2010–11, 13 799 visas were granted under Australia’s Humanitarian Program.This includes 8971 visas granted to people under the offshore resettlement program and 4828 visas granted to people who were found to be refugees after they arrived in Australia (onshore protection).[232]

The top ten countries of nationality for people granted offshore visas in 2010–11 were: Iraq, Burma, Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Iran, Sudan and Somalia.[233]

In 2010–11, the top ten countries of nationality for people granted onshore visas who arrived other than by boat were: Iran, the People’s Republic of China, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Fiji, Lebanon and Afghanistan.[234] The top five nationalities of people granted onshore visas who arrived by boat in 2010–11 were Afghanistan, Iran, no country of nationality (stateless), Iraq and Sri Lanka.[235]

The table below shows the number of visas granted under Australia’s Humanitarian Program over the past six years.

Table 3.1: Visas granted under Australia’s Humanitarian Program by category[236]

Category
2004–05
2005–06
2006–07
2007–08
2008–09
2009–10
2010–11
Refugee (offshore)
5511
6022
6003
6004
6499
6003
5998
Special Humanitarian
(offshore)
6585
6736
5183
4795
4511
3233
2973
Onshore
1065
1372
1793
2 131
2492
4534
4828
Temporary
Humanitarian Concern
17
14
38
84
5
Total
13 178
14 144
13 017
13 014
13 507
13 770
13 799

 

Find out more

Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program; Fact Sheet 60, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

 

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3.10 How many asylum seekers come to Australia and where do they come from?

In 2010–11, 11 491 asylum seekers sought protection from within Australia.[237] The number of people seeking protection in Australia each year has fluctuated widely over the past decade, with peaks in 1999–2001 and again in recent years. The lowest numbers in the past decade were in 2004–05.[238]

In 2010–11 the total figure included 6316 applications lodged by asylum seekers who entered Australia by air, who almost always arrived on a valid visa,[239] and then applied for a Protection Visa.[240] The number of people seeking protection after arriving by air has been steadily rising since 2004–05.[241] In 2010–11 the top ten countries of citizenship of people seeking asylum after arriving by air were China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, Fiji, Nepal, Iraq, Malaysia and Indonesia.[242]

A further 5175 requests were made in 2010–11 by unauthorised arrivals who came to Australia by boat without a valid visa.[243] The top five countries of citizenship for this group were Afghanistan, Iran, no country of citizenship (stateless), Iraq and Sri Lanka.[244] Approximately 31 per cent were from Afghanistan (compared to 58 per cent in 2009–10), and 30 per cent were from Iran (compared to 4 per cent in 2009–10), while the number of applications by stateless people almost doubled since 2009–10.[245]

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3.11 What happens to asylum seekers in Australia?

The way in which asylum seekers’ claims for protection are processed will vary depending on whether they had a valid visa at the time they arrived in Australia.

Asylum seekers who enter Australia on a valid visa

‘Authorised arrivals’ enter Australia with a valid visa, such as a tourist visa or a student visa, and then apply for a Protection Visa. Claims for asylum made by ‘authorised arrivals’ are processed through the refugee status determination system established by the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (the Migration Act).

An ‘authorised arrival’ who applies for a Protection Visa may receive a bridging visa, which allows him or her to stay lawfully in the community while his or her application is being processed. Whether an applicant for a Protection Visa is allowed to work will depend on a number of factors, including his or her immigration status at the time the application was made.

Applications for Protection Visas must be made in writing to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (the Department). An officer from the Department, who has been delegated power by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (the Minister), assesses the person’s application and decides if he or she satisfies the requirements set out in Australian law and the Refugee Convention. The Department aims to process applications for Protection Visas within a 90-day timeframe.[246]

In addition to an assessment of their refugee status, people who seek asylum in Australia are subject to health, character and security checks. Those found to be refugees and who pass these checks are granted Protection Visas and can remain in the Australian community as permanent residents.

A person who arrives in Australia on a valid visa and whose application for protection is refused can seek an independent review by the Refugee Review Tribunal or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. An applicant who receives a negative outcome from either of these tribunals may apply for a review of the tribunal’s decision by a court. However, an appeal will only be allowed if it can be shown that the tribunal has made an error of law.[247]

Asylum seekers who enter Australia without a valid visa

People who arrive in Australia without a valid visa are called ‘unauthorised arrivals’. There are many reasons why people travel without documentation. For example, a person who is fleeing persecution by the government of their country of origin might not be able to obtain a passport from officials in that country. Alternatively, a person fleeing persecution might travel without documentation to avoid being identified as they leave their country of origin and reduce the risk to themselves and their family.

Until late 2011, ‘unauthorised arrivals’ had different experiences of claiming asylum depending on how and where a person arrived in Australia.

Previously, people who arrived in Australia by boat, also known as ‘irregular maritime arrivals’, and sought asylum were barred from accessing the refugee status determination process that applies on the Australian mainland. This is because most of the islands that surround Australia have been ‘excised’, or removed, from Australia’s migration zone. The claims of asylum seekers who arrived by boat at an ‘excised offshore place’ were instead processed through a separate refugee status determination system. These people were also subject to a separate system of independent merits review of negative decisions to that available to other asylum seekers in Australia. Additionally, in practice most asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat without a valid visa and then sought asylum were held in immigration detention for the entire period it took for their claims for asylum to be finalised.

On the other hand, ‘unauthorised arrivals’ who came to Australia by plane underwent the same refugee status determination system as ‘authorised arrivals’. That is, they applied in writing to the Department; had their application assessed by a delegate of the Minister; underwent health, character and security checks; and could apply to the Refugee Review Tribunal or Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a review of negative decisions.[248] This is because ‘unauthorised arrivals’ by plane will arrive on the mainland rather than on one of the islands ‘excised’ from the migration zone. In practice, while some asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by plane without a valid visa may have spent a period of time in immigration detention, many of them were granted bridging visas permitting them to live in the community while their claims for asylum were processed.

In October 2011, the Australian Government announced that Australia would return to a policy of using a single system for processing the asylum claims of ‘unauthorised arrivals’ who arrive by plane and those who arrive by boat.[249] These new streamlined arrangements commenced on 24 March 2012.[250] ‘Unauthorised arrivals’ by boat are now subject to the same refugee status determination system that is prescribed by the Migration Act and is available on the mainland. These people are also permitted to apply directly for a Protection Visa and have the same opportunities to appeal from a negative decision in the Refugee Review Tribunal or Administrative Appeals Tribunal as other people claiming asylum from within Australia.[251]

Also in October 2011, the Australian Government announced that following initial health, security and identity checks, selected ‘irregular maritime arrivals’ who are not considered to pose risks to the community would be placed into the community while their asylum claims are assessed, through community detention and the use of bridging visas.[252] On 25 November 2011 an initial 27 asylum seekers who arrived by boat were approved for bridging visas, and since then, many more people have been granted bridging visas under this approach.[253]Statistics on the number of people released from immigration detention on bridging visas are published regularly by the Department.[254]

These announcements bring Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers arriving in the country by boat into line with its processes for other people seeking asylum.

Find out more

Seeking Protection within Australia; Fact Sheet 61, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

Onshore Processing Arrangements for Irregular Maritime Arrivals; Fact Sheet 65, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

Australia's Excised Offshore Places; Fact Sheet 81, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

The Health Requirement; Fact Sheet 22, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2010)

The Character Requirement; Fact Sheet 79, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

 

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3.12 What is immigration detention?

Australian law requires that people on the mainland found to be ‘unlawful non-citizens’ be detained until they are granted a visa or removed from the country.[255] ‘Unlawful non-citizens’ include asylum seekers; recognised refugees who have not satisfied the health, character or security requirements for the grant of a visa; people who have overstayed their visas and non-citizens whose visas have been cancelled.

The law also provides that ‘unlawful non-citizens’ who arrive at an ‘excised offshore place’, such as Christmas Island, may be detained.[256] However, the Australian Government’s current policy is to mandatorily detain all asylum seekers who arrive at excised offshore places for the management of health, identity and security risks to the community.[257]

The UNHCR has urged countries to avoid detaining asylum seekers.[258] Australia’s policy of mandatory immigration detention has attracted specific criticism from the UNHCR and other United Nations bodies.[259]

How are people detained in immigration detention?

People in immigration detention can be detained in a number of ways. They may be held in immigration detention centres; confined to immigration residential housing; confined to immigration transit accommodation; held in alternative places of detention; or subject to community detention.

Australian law does not set out standards for conditions or treatment of people in immigration detention.

What are immigration detention centres?

Immigration detention centres are the most widely used form of immigration detention in Australia. These are the most secure of Australia’s immigration detention facilities and people detained in them are not free to come and go.

In May 2012, immigration detention centres were located at Maribyrnong (Melbourne), at Villawood (Sydney), in Perth, in Darwin, near Derby in Western Australia, near Weipa in northern Queensland, on Christmas Island, at Wickham Point near Darwin and in Pontville, Tasmania.

The Australian Government has announced plans to open a new immigration detention centre at Yongah Hill in Northam, Western Australia.

 External fences, NIDC

External fences, Northern Immigration Detention Centre, near Darwin (September 2010)

 External fence, Blaxland compound, Villawood IDC

External fence, Blaxland compound, Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (February 2011)

 Dormitory bedroom, Curtin IDC

Dormitory, Curtin Immigration Detention Centre (May 2011)

 Dormitory 1, Blaxland compound, Villawood IDC

Dormitory, Blaxland compound, Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (February 2011)

What is immigration residential housing?

Immigration residential housing facilities are closed detention facilities with less intrusive security measures than immigration detention centres. Immigration residential housing is often provided to family groups and unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Australia. People detained in immigration residential housing live in more flexible, less institutional settings and can, for instance, prepare their own meals. They may also be able to leave for short periods, under the supervision of officers from the detention services provider, for shopping or recreation.

In May 2012, immigration residential housing facilities were located in Sydney, Perth and Port Augusta in South Australia.

 Accommodation, Sydney IRH

Accommodation, Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (February 2011)

 Bedroom, Sydney IRH

Bedroom, Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (February 2011)

What is immigration transit accommodation?

Immigration transit accommodation facilities are closed detention facilities but have less intrusive security measures than immigration detention centres. They were originally intended to provide hostel-style accommodation for low-risk people in short-term immigration detention. However, more recently they have been used for much longer periods to detain families and unaccompanied minors who have arrived by boat. In May 2012, immigration transit accommodation facilities were located in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.

What are alternative places of detention?

In certain circumstances, asylum seekers may be held in alternative places of immigration detention, such as correctional centres, hospitals, hotels, psychiatric facilities, foster care arrangements or with a designated person at a private residence.

The conditions and restrictions that apply to these people will depend on where they are held and what arrangements have been made for their supervision by a designated person.

There are also a number of low security immigration detention facilities that are classified by the Department as alternative places of detention. These include the Construction Camp on Christmas Island and facilities in Darwin, Leonora in Western Australia and Inverbrackie in South Australia. People detained in these facilities are supervised and are not free to come and go.

 Offices and accommodation, Airport Lodge

Offices and accommodation, Darwin Airport Lodge (September 2010)

 External view, Berrimah House

External view, Berrimah House, Darwin (September 2010)

 Volleyball court, Leonora immigration detention facility

Volleyball court, Leonora immigration detention facility (November 2010)

What is community detention?

Some people in immigration detention are allowed to live in specified residences in the community.

Community detention was introduced in 2005 when the Migration Act was amended to allow the Minister to make residence determinations. People in community detention are generally not under supervision and can move freely about in the community. Legally, however, they remain in immigration detention.

Certain conditions and requirements attach to residence determinations, such as reporting regularly to the Department, sleeping at a specified residence every night and not engaging in paid work or formal study.

Find out more

Immigration Detention; Fact Sheet 82, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

Immigration Residential Housing; Fact Sheet 83, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

Residence Determination; Fact Sheet 83a, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2009)

 

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3.13 Who is in immigration detention?

How many people are in immigration detention?

As at 30 April 2012, there were 5967 people in immigration detention, including 5166 people on mainland Australia and 801 people on Christmas Island. Of the people detained on the mainland at this date, 1638 were in community detention.[260]

Statistics on the number of people in immigration detention are published regularly by the Department.[261]

How many children are in immigration detention?

As at 30 April 2012, 1019 children were in immigration detention: 861 were detained on mainland Australia and 158 were in detention on Christmas Island. Of the children detained on the mainland at this date, 556 were in community detention.[262]

As a matter of Australian Government policy, children are not held in Australia’s high-security immigration detention centres. However, children are detained in other types of immigration detention facilities, including immigration residential housing, immigration transit accommodation and alternative places of detention.[263]

Statistics on the number of children in immigration detention are published regularly by the Department.[264]

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3.14 How long are people held in immigration detention?

Australian law and policy do not set a limit on the length of time a person can be held in immigration detention. An individual can be detained for anywhere from a few days to a few years, or even longer.

Of the 5967 people in immigration detention at 30 April 2012, 66% had been in detention for over three months and 34% had been detained for six months or longer. Almost 1500 people had been in detention for over a year and 382 people had been detained for over two years.[265]

Statistics on the length of time people have spent in immigration detention are published regularly by the Department.[266]

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3.15 What happens to people who do not meet the definition of refugee but are in need of protection?

Some people may not meet the definition of a refugee in the Refugee Convention, but nevertheless need protection because they may experience significant human rights abuses if they return to their countries of origin. For example, a person may face torture or death upon return, but not for any of the reasons set out in the Refugee Convention.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment and Punishment and the Convention on the Rights of the Child all require that people who are at risk of death or serious human rights violations in their countries of origin not be returned to face such risks.[267] In line with their obligations under these treaties, some countries have ‘complementary’ or ‘subsidiary’ protection schemes. These schemes provide people who have not been found to be refugees, but cannot be returned, with a level of protection similar to ‘Convention’ refugees.[268]

Australia has recently introduced such a scheme of complementary protection. The Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection) Act, which became law in October 2011, allows people claiming protection under Australia’s international human rights obligations to have their claims assessed through the same visa process as people seeking protection under the Refugee Convention.[269] The Department commenced processing claims under the complementary protection scheme on 24 March 2012.[270]

Find out more

Complementary Protection; Fact Sheet 61a, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

 

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3.16 What assistance do asylum seekers receive in Australia?

Asylum seekers living in the community may be eligible for the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme. Under this scheme, people may be provided with some financial assistance, health care services and other services in limited circumstances.

People living in the community are eligible to receive help under the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme if they have been identified as vulnerable and are experiencing financial hardship. Their visa application must also be at a particular stage and/or they must meet certain exemption criteria. Eligibility for ongoing support is reviewed regularly.[271]

Alternatively, highly vulnerable asylum seekers with complex needs may be eligible for the Community Assistance Support program. People may receive assistance under this program if they have exceptional circumstances and vulnerabilities and have no access to other support or assistance in the community.

The Community Assistance Support Program helps asylum seekers to meet their basic health and welfare needs while their immigration status is being resolved. Assistance provided under the program may include complex casework support, access to health care and counselling and crisis accommodation.[272]

The Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme and the Community Assistance Support program are funded by the Department and administered by the Australian Red Cross. Under these schemes, people can access income support amounting to 89% of a Centrelink Special Benefit.[273]

Asylum seekers are not entitled to social security.

Find out more

Assistance for Asylum Seekers in Australia; Fact Sheet 62, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

Community Assistance Support Program; Fact Sheet 64, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2009)

 

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3.17 What settlement services does Australia provide to refugees?

The Department provides a variety of resettlement services to help refugees adjust to life in Australia. The Australian Cultural Orientation Program is available to refugee and humanitarian visa holders who are preparing to travel to and settle in Australia. It aims to provide people with an overview of Australia before they arrive and covers topics such as: Australian politics; Australian geography and climate; cultural adjustment; travel to Australia; health care and education; finding a job; money management; housing; transport within Australia; and Australian law.[274]

The Humanitarian Settlement Services program assists humanitarian visa holders during their early settlement period in Australia. It aims to build their confidence and capacity to participate socially and economically in the community and give them the knowledge and skills to access services they will need in the future. The program is tailored to meet people’s individual needs and may include on-arrival reception and induction, help with finding accommodation and referral to mainstream agencies and other settlement and community programs.[275]

The Settlement Grants Program funds community organisations to provide settlement support services to eligible refugees for up to five years after their arrival. It aims to assist refugees in practical ways so they can become self-reliant and participate equitably in Australian society as soon as possible after their arrival.[276]

Refugees may also receive:

  • free English tuition under the Adult Migrant English Program[277]
  • Complex Case Support services, if they face significant difficulties in successfully resettling; for instance, if they have experienced torture or trauma in their home countries, have a serious medical conditions or experience a crisis after arriving in Australia[278]
  • assistance through Centrelink services such as the Languages, Literacy and Numeracy Program for jobseekers, the Assessment Subsidy for Overseas Trained Professionals and Centrelink multicultural services[279]
  • a one-off payment from Centrelink for people in crisis situations.[280]

Refugees have the same entitlements to social security as all other Australian permanent residents and receive payments from Centrelink at the same rate as all other eligible Australians.[281] They are, however, exempt from some of the waiting periods that usually apply to applicants for social security payments.[282]

Find out more

Humanitarian Settlement Services; Fact Sheet 66, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2012)

The Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) Program; Fact Sheet 67, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2012)

Settlement Grants Program; Fact Sheet 92, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

Settlement Services for Refugees; Fact Sheet 98, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (2011)

 

3.18 What were Australian laws, policies and practices on refugees and asylum seekers like in the past?

Information about the ‘Tampa’ issue, the ‘Pacific Solution’, Temporary Protection Visas and other related matters can be found in the 2008 version of Face the Facts.[283]

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[209]Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1967. At www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf (viewed 23 May 2012).

[210] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2010 Global Trends (2011), p 3. At www.unhcr.org/4dfa11499.html (viewed 21 June 2011).

[211] For Australian figures, see United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2010 (2011), p 6. At www.unhcr.org/4d8c5b109.html (viewed 30 August 2011) or Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Asylum Trends: Australia: 2010–11 Annual Publication (2011), p 2. At www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/statistics/asylum/_files/asylum-trends-aus-annual-2010-11.pdf (viewed 8 December 2011); for number of asylum seekers globally, see above, p 5.

[212] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, note 210, pp 25-26.

[213]Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, note 209.

[214]Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, above, article 1A.

[215] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, note 210, p 3.

[216] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, above.

[217] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, above, p 11.

[218] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, above, p 14.

[219] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, above, Statistical Annex, Table 1, p 38.

[220] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, above, pp 14-15.

[221] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, above, pp 33-34.

[222] See, respectively, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Staff Figures. At www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c17.html (viewed 22 May 2012); United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, About Us. At www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c2.html (viewed 22 May 2012).

[223] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, About Us, above.

[224] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Durable Solutions. At www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646cf8.html (viewed 23 May 2011).

[225] For more info on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, visit www.unhcr.org (viewed 23 May 2011).

[226] Number of signatories to the Refugee Convention valid as of 16 May 2012. See http://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetailsII.aspx?&src=UNTSONLINE&mtdsg_no=V~2&chapter=5&Temp=mtdsg2&lang=en (viewed 16 May 2012).

[227]Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, note 209, article 33(1).

[228]Migration Act 1958 (Cth), s 198.

[229] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program, Fact Sheet 60. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm (viewed 9 November 2011).

[230] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[231] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Seeking Asylum within Australia, Fact Sheet 61. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/61asylum.htm (viewed 23 May 2011).

[232] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Annual Report 2010–11 (2011), p 111. At www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/annual/2010-11/index.htm (viewed 9 November 2011).

[233] Nationality based on country of birth. See Department of Immigration and Citizenship, note 229.

[234] Nationality based on country of citizenship. See Department of Immigration and Citizenship, note 232, p 121.

[235] Nationality based on country of citizenship: Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[236] Figures taken from Department of Immigration and Citizenship, note 229.

[237] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, note 211, p 2.

[238] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[239] In 2010–11 only 27 people raised protection claim after arriving at an Australian airport without documentation. See Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above, p 5.

[240] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above, p 2.

[241] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above, p 5.

[242] The top 20 countries of citizenship are based on 2010–11 program year lodgements. Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above, Table 5, p 7.

[243] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above, p 26.

[244] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above, Table 22.

[245] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above, Table 22.

[246] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, note 231.

[247] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Litigation Involving Migration Decisions, Fact Sheet 9. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/09litigation.htm (viewed 2 June 2011).

[248] See ‘Asylum seekers who enter Australia on a valid visa’ in Part 3.12 of this publication.

[249] Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, ‘Asylum seekers; Malaysia agreement; Commonwealth Ombudsman’ Joint press conference, 13 October 2011. At www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/cb/2011/cb179299.htm (viewed 8 December 2011).

[250] Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, ‘New Single Protection Visa Process Set to Commence’ Media Release, 19 March 2012. At www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/cb/2012/cb184344.htm (viewed 25 May 2012).

[251] For further information about the new streamlined processing arrangements, see Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Implementation of a single process for Irregular Maritime Arrivals (Questions and Answers). At www.immi.gov.au/visas/humanitarian/_pdf/implementation_single_process_ima.pdf (viewed 22 May 2012).

[252] Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, note 249.

[253] Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, ‘Bridging visas to be issued for boat arrivals’ Media Release, 25 November 2011. At www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/cb/2011/cb180599.htm (viewed 26 November 2011). For further information about bridging visas and asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat, see Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Onshore Processing Arrangements for Irregular Maritime Arrivals, Fact Sheet 65. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/65onshore-processing-irregular-maritime-arrivals.htm (viewed 22 May 2012).

[254] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Onshore Processing Statistics – Bridging Visa E grants to Irregular Maritime Arrivals. At www.immi.gov.au/media/statistics/onshore-processing.htm (viewed 23 May 2012).

[255]Migration Act 1958 (Cth), ss 189 and 196.

[256]Migration Act 1958 (Cth), ss 189(4).

[257] C Evans, New Directions in Detention – Restoring Integrity to Australia’s Immigration System (Speech delivered at the Centre for International and Public Law Seminar, Australian National University, Canberra, 29 July 2008). At www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/speeches/2008/ce080729.htm (viewed 23 May 2012).

[258] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR urges states to avoid detaining asylum seekers (12 May 2011). At www.unhcr.org/4dcbef476.html (viewed 23 May 2011).

[259] See, for example, ‘UNHCR urges Australia to review policy of detaining asylum seekers’ Media Release, 1 February 2002. At www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=2785&Cr=australia&Cr1=asylum; ‘Changes to Australian detention arrangements’ Media Release, 19 April 2010. At http://unhcr.org.au/unhcr/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=175&catid=35&Itemid=63; United Nations Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Australia, UN Doc CCPR/C/AUS/CO/5 (2009), para 23. At www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/co/CCPR-C-AUS-CO-5.doc; United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Australia, UN Doc E/C.12/AUS/CO/4 (2009), para 25. At www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/0/6035497b015966fec1256cc200551f19?Opendocument; A Grover, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health: Mission to Australia, UN Doc A/HRC/14/30/Add.4 (2010), pp 21-24. At www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/49faf7652.html; United Nations Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Australia (2011), pp 21-22. At www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/PAGES/AUSession10.aspx; United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Visit to Australia (2002), UN Doc E/CN.4/2003/8/Add.2, see Executive Summary. At www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/detention/visits.htm; United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations: Australia (2005), UN Doc CRC/C/15/Add.268, para 62. At www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,CRC,,AUS,45377eac0,0.html (all viewed 8 June 2011).

[260] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Immigration Detention Statistics Summary (2011). At www.immi.gov.au/managing-australias-borders/detention/facilities/statistics/ (viewed 23 May 2012).

[261] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[262] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[263] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[264] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[265] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[266] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, above.

[267]International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966. At www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm (viewed 23 May 2012); the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, 1984. At www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm (viewed 2 June 2011); the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989. At www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm (viewed 23 May 2012).

[268] Such countries include Canada, the USA and most countries in the European Union.

[269] See Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection) Act 2011 (Cth). At www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2011A00121 (viewed 23 May 2012).

[270] Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, ‘New Single Protection Visa Process Set to Commence’ Media Release, 19 March 2012. At www.minister.immi.gov.au/media/cb/2012/cb184344.htm (viewed 22 May 2012).

[271] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Assistance for Asylum Seekers in Australia, Fact Sheet 62. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/62assistance.htm (viewed 23 May 2011).

[272] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Community Assistance Support Program, Fact Sheet 64. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/64community-assistance.htm (viewed 25 May 2012).

[273] Australian Red Cross, Asylum Seeker Assistance (2011). At www.redcross.org.au/asylum-seeker-assistance-scheme.aspx (viewed 9 November 2011); Australian Red Cross, Community Assistance (2012). At www.redcross.org.au/community-assistance-support.aspx (viewed 22 May 2012).

[274] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, The Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) Program, Fact Sheet 67. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/67ausco.htm (viewed 8 June 2011).

[275] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Humanitarian Settlement Services, Fact Sheet 66. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/66hss.htm (viewed 9 June 2011).

[276] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, What is the Settlements Grant Program? At www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/delivering-assistance/settlement-grants/what-sgp.htm%20 (viewed 9 June 2011).

[277] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Settlement Services for Refugees, Fact Sheet 98. At www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/98services.htm (viewed 21 May 2011).

[278] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Complex Case Support Services. At www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/delivering-assistance/government-programs/settlement-programs/ccs.htm (viewed 9 June 2011).

[279] Centrelink, Services and Programs for Migrants and Refugees. At www.centrelink.gov.au/internet/internet.nsf/individuals/settle_specialist_services.htm (viewed 9 June 2011).

[280] Centrelink, Crisis Payment. At www.centrelink.gov.au/internet/internet.nsf/payments/crisis.htm (viewed 9 June 2011).

[281] Department of Immigration and Citizenship, note 276.

[282] L Buckmaster, Australian Government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction (1 December 2009). At www.aph.gov.au/binaries/library/pubs/bn/sp/austgovassist_refugees.pdf (viewed 23 May 2012).

[283] Australian Human Rights Commission, Face the Facts (2008). At www.humanrights.gov.au/node/8539 (viewed 2 June 2011).