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Refugee and Humanitarian Program

What is it?

This applies to people who:

  • arrive in Australia as refugees;
  • are overseas, but are given a visa because of their refugee status or
  • fall into the Special Assistance category.

Who are "refugees"?

Refugees are defined by the United Nations as:

"any person who owing to a "well-founded" fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." (Refugee Convention, Article 1A(2), Protocol, Art 1 (A) (2)).

Can all refugees get a visa?

No. There are many requirements, depending on the category of visa. There is also a quota that changes every year, according to the region in the world in which the applicant is living. Once the quota is filled, it is very hard to get a visa, even if you qualify for refugee status under the United Nations criteria. The conditions for the granting of visas under this program include:

  • people not living in their home country (i.e. where they are a citizen), who have a "well founded" fear of persecution if they were forced to return to that country;
  • people living in their home country who have a "well founded" fear of persecution;
  • people in immediate danger, e.g. in a life-threatening situation, whether they are living in their home country or are likely to be forced to return to their home country;
  • people not living in their home country and subject to significant human rights infringements, who are proposed by friend/relative who is an Australian citizen, permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen, or a community/ethnic group that is registered for this purpose with the Department;
  • specific groups of people in countries designated by the Department, who must have a written undertaking of support from a close relative or an eligible organisation;
  • women who not living in their home country, who have a "well founded" fear of persecution if they were forced to return to that country and are at risk of violence, sexual abuse or detention, and don't have male protection in the country where they now live.

What are the issues?

The issues considered may include:

  • whether applicants have a "compelling reason" to be admitted as a refugee. This depends on the level of persecution/discrimination, any connections with Australia, whether another country can provide residency, and the capacity of the Australian community to accommodate them;
  • whether the applicant can safely return to their home country;
  • whether the applicant is under pressure to leave their home country;
  • whether there is close family or other ties in another country that would accept them;
  • whether the persecution/discrimination is connected to the applicant's race, religion, political opinion or the like.

What's "persecution"?

Examples of persecution include:

  • real threats to life and liberty;
  • harassment, detention or arrest;
  • slavery;
  • confiscation of property; and
  • re-education or forced direction.

What's "discrimination"?

The discrimination may include:

  • not being allowed to make a living;
  • intervention in the person's privacy;
  • refusing entry to education;
  • being watched all the time;
  • taking away the rights of citizenship; and
  • refusing to supply a passport.


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