A refugee is outside his or her country of nationality and cannot or is unwilling to return home. This is due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. A refugee has asked for protection and been given refugee status. They may have been resettled in another country, like Australia, or be waiting for resettlement.
A person seeking asylum is looking for protection, but they have not been given refugee status. Not every person seeking asylum becomes a refugee, but every refugee starts out seeking asylum.
In 2020, there were 26.4 million refugees worldwide. This figure does not include as of 31st March 2022, the 4 million who have fled Ukraine in the initial five weeks of the war. In 2021, 13,750 refugees were assisted by Australia and granted resettlement visas under the humanitarian program. Most of these people came from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.
The number of refugees who are resettled each year from overseas is normally less than five per cent of Australia’s permanent Migration Program.
Australia’s refugee program has two parts: ‘offshore’ and ‘onshore.’ Refugees who are overseas can be resettled through the ‘offshore’ part of the program. Those who are in Australia when they claim protection can apply to be resettled through the ‘onshore’ part.
Australia has four offshore refugee category visas: Refugee (visa subclass 200); In Country Special Humanitarian (visa subclass 201); Emergency Rescue (visa subclass 203); and Woman at Risk (visa subclass 204).
If applying to resettle in Australia through the ‘onshore’ part of the program, a person will need a ‘bridging visa’ while waiting for a decision about their application. Whether they came by plane or boat will affect the conditions of their visa and how their claim for protection is determined. All people who arrive in Australia by boat without a valid visa are subject to mandatory detention.
There are about 30,000 people seeking asylum in Australia who are waiting to have their claims processed. If they are found to be refugees, they will receive either a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV). A TPV is valid for 3 years while a SHEV is valid for 5 years on the condition that the person commits to working in a regional area. At the end of a SHEV a person can apply for a permanent visa.
If applying in Australia, a person seeking asylum can only get advice about their refugee claim from a registered migration agent. The average processing time for refugee visas is approximately 14 – 15 months.
It is also possible to come to Australia on a Special Humanitarian Protection Visa (SHP). A SHP is for people who are not refugees but who are subject to substantial discrimination amounting to gross violation of human rights in their home country.
When people arrive in Australia on a refugee visa, they arrive as permanent residents. They can access the same supports, as any other Australian permanent resident. They also receive some support specific to their needs such as English language classes, access to caseworkers, and help finding housing.
People who arrive in Australia as refugees can face many barriers to resettlement as well as be vulnerable to exploitation. Employment, housing, education and health, including mental health, are some key areas of challenge. Refugees may also be challenged with language barriers, homesickness, culture shock, limited understanding of Australian systems, and loss of family.
Culture shock is a common experience for anyone who has been uprooted from familiar surroundings. In a new culture with different beliefs, values and attitudes, a person may find they no longer understand why they think and behave in ways that they never questioned before. This can be a positive, but it can also be isolating and frightening.
Refugees may have spent long periods of time in other countries before arriving in Australia. Due to this, they may not have been able to attend to their health, continue their education, or earn a living. They may have been separated from family members. Some may be affected by trauma.
There are various programs and initiatives run by the government and other organisations which provide information and support to refugees. ANGLICARE offers a number of programs that can help in assisting refugees and people seeking asylum living in the community.
Counselling and Financial Counselling 1300 651 728
Food and Financial Services 8624 8600
Mental Health Program 1300 111 278
Housing 0408 893 997
Family Support 1300 111 278
Mobile Community Pantry 1300 111 278
Anglicare English language classes 0407 865 785
Your neighbour may have never met a Christian before or know anything about Jesus.
When we love and serve humanitarian arrivals, we are reflecting the character of God, who loves the alien and stranger.